Is it correct to say something like this?

I used to use the knife to open things like cans.


5 Answers 5


It's fine to use that way as far as you maintain that you no longer "open the cans using a knife". Also, "used to" is a modal verb that can be used with any verb and in this case, "use."


Yes, used to use is a perfectly normal construction.


That’s fine (as per Barrie and Manoj), but you may want to say a knife, unless you always did your opening with a specific knife that’s contextually salient.

On the same theme as your question, you can create other sentences where a verb is used both in its “lexical” and its “grammaticized” senses. For instance:

  1. I have to have it. [modal have and lexical have]
  2. He has to have had it. [modal have, perfect have, lexical have]
  3. She had me have him over. [causative have, lexical+particle have]
  4. Who knows what he will will. [auxiliary will, lexical will]
  5. She’s going to go. [auxiliary go, lexical go]
  6. Who will they make make a cake. [causative make, light verb make]

If you get carried away, you could end up with Who has she had to have have you over?

  • 2
    You left out do-do, as in: "Birds don't do that, but they do do this." :^)
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 22:34
  • 1
    Indeed: ... that dodos do do do-do. Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 6:47
  • I park my car under a tree. Birds do do do all over it.
    – user16269
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 9:28

Yes, used to use is perfectly normal. I normally pronounce it uste instead of uzed. Just remember that it also means you don't anymore. "Used to" is a verb and the rest of the sentence is the direct object. I believe it would be a bare infinitive.


I agree with Manoj and Daniel. If you no longer do something, then it works well to use the phrase as such. Otherwise, watch the flow of sentences and writing because extra tangles of words and clauses can pile up quickly.

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