In the answer he says 'used to play' means I played something in the past but not anymore, yet 'was used to playing' means a habitual activity but had changed some way.

For me, as a non-native English speaker, I feel these 2 sentences have exactly the same meaning because I played something in the past is a range of time. There could be an action that might be happened multiple times, not just only 1.

If someone has an experience in the past and wants to explain, nobody would say 'I had played the game' just a single time? Several retries could be happening within the range of the timeline. So I think this could be meaning a habitual activity too.

How native speakers do you guys understand these differences? What's the actual difference between used to play and was used to playing?

  • David Barlow's answer is correct. 'I used to play X' is a pure statement of fact whereas 'I was used to playing X' adds a level of comfort with playing X, something 'I' was quite happy to do and probably had a reasonable competence in. I won't repeat Barlow's answer as an 'answer' here. Dec 27, 2022 at 13:04
  • Stackedbook - Yes, I used to [do something] means that you habitually did it. I was used to [doing something] means that you had grown accustomed to doing it. It's not true to say that it always means that something has changed. I was used to playing video games can mean that, at the time you are talking about, playing them had become easy and natural to you. Dec 27, 2022 at 13:25
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    In what answer? And who is "he"? You should spell these things out directly in your own text.
    – tchrist
    Dec 27, 2022 at 14:48
  • The answer you refer to is flat-out wrong. Used to playing means accustomed to playing — that's all. Dec 27, 2022 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


The cited answer on Quora is certainly wrong to claim They are both "correct". It's not normally possible in speech to distinguish (infinitive?) use to from (explicitly Past Tense) used to, but most writers have always written it correctly...

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I don't particularly disagree with the semantic distinction the respondent there makes between...

1: I used to drink . . . . . . . . NOT use
2: I was used to drinking

My example #1 means I [habitually] drank [alcohol, to excess] in the past [but I don't now]. Note that feasibly I could say this even if I always got into fights and/or collapsed unconscious whenever I drank alcohol (idiomatically, I couldn't hold my drink).

But whereas #2 carries the same basic meaning, it also strongly implies anticipation and/or competence (I normally expected to drink, and/or was normally able to do so without serious problems).

In short, whereas you could just about extend my example #1 with ...but I couldn't hold my drink, it wouldn't really make sense to do that with example #2.

  • I’m sorry for the late response. I was outside a whole day for working. So all of the answers on this questions, both imply repetitive actions but to be used to + verb is only referring the past and does not care about the speaker’s confidentiality of that action, while to be used to +ing more refers to the speakers’ mindset(familiar)? Dec 28, 2022 at 6:42
  • #1 I used to work here; implies repetitive action, only refers past, and does not care about how speaker's confidentiality of the action. #2 I was used to working here; also implies repetitive action, but it more focuses on speakers’ feelings. Dec 28, 2022 at 6:43
  • The reason why I am getting confused about this, is Eleanor Odell, the answerer from the link, he typically mentioned the repeated (habitual) when he compares them so I thought used to + verb does not imply repetitive actions behind the scene. Dec 28, 2022 at 6:51
  • Yes, if you say you use[d] to [do something] the assertion simply tells us what you [habitually] did. But if you say you were used to [doing something], you're also telling us how you felt about doing it (you were familiar with the action - which you expected to do, and/or were able to do without problems). Dec 29, 2022 at 13:22

What "I used to do something" means is that I did it in the past (several or many times) but I don't anymore. What "I was used to doing something" means that I was accustomed to doing something relatively often; this was not something that was unusual or out of the ordinary for me.

Maybe an example would be good.

I used to run marathons.

What this means is that, when I was younger, I ran marathon races. Now I don't do this anymore (either because of injuries, age, or maybe because I just got tired of doing it).

I was used to running marathons.

What this means is that, when I was younger, running marathons was a common occurrence in my life.

Googling, you find lots of instances of the first sentence, and very few of the second, probably because even for marathon runners, they are still fairly rare and exceptional events.

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    'I used to [V]' is used for single-span continuous activities etc in the past as well as iterative situations. 'I used to live in Denver.' // 'Be used to ...' implies a familiarity, a level of comfort, through repetition. Jul 20 at 14:55

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