Be/Get Used To
We use be/get used to to talk about something that we are familiar with or accustomed to.
In this lesson we'll look at how they are both constructed and used with examples, and how 'do' and 'get' differ.
Don't confuse be/get used to with 'used to' to talk about past habits.
Be Used To
When to use 'be used to'
'Be used to' is to state when you are accustomed to something or familiar with it - something is normal to you and does not feel strange, odd, or wrong.
As it's something someone is familiar with, it's used in reference to something that has been happening over a length of time.
If it's used in the negative, this will refer to something that is a person is not becoming familiar with, so it still feels strange or odd. This could perhaps be because they have not been doing it for long enough yet.
Let's look at some examples of 'be used to' that will make this clear.
Examples of ' be used to':
- I've been living next to this noisy road for a long time so I'm used to it. I don't have any trouble sleeping at night (he is accustomed to the noise)
- My husband is used to getting up early as he's been doing it now for a number of years. (getting up early is familiar to him so it's not difficult)
- He is used to people staring at him as he has always dressed rather weirdly. (so he doesn't find it strange or odd that people stare as he is familiar with it)
- I'm not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road so it's not easy. (she normally drives on the right - so an example of something that has not been done much or at all before and is thus strange/difficult)
- I know he gets annoyed easily, but don't worry, I'm used to him. (she's familiar with his character so it doesn't bother her)
- I will be used to living alone after I've done it for a while. (a familiarity that is expected to arise in the future)
Structure of 'be used to'
The structure of 'be used to' in a sentence is as follows:
- Affirmative: subject + be used to + object (I'm used to the heat)
- Negative: subject + be not used to + object (I'm not used to the heat)
- Interrogative: be + subject + used to + object? (Are you used to the heat?)
The main verb in the sentence is 'to be'. The 'used to' part is an adjective. So tenses are created by conjugating the verb 'to be'. For example:
- The government wasn't used to getting such negative press (past simple)
- She is used to the way he speaks to her (present simple)
- I've been used to the heat here in Asia for some years (present perfect)
- I suspect I will be used to doing nightshifts after a few months (future simple)
It can't though be used in the continuous tenses - we have to use 'get used to' for this (see below).
'Be used to' is followed by an object, and this is a noun, pronoun, or gerund (a gerund is actually still a noun, but is created by adding -ing to a verb).
- I'm used to the weather (noun)
- I'm used to him (pronoun)
- I'm used to walking to work (gerund)
So the '-ing' form is used if we are wanting to place a verb after ' be used to'.
Get Used To
'Get used to' is again used for familiarity but it is slightly different in meaning to 'be used to'.
When to use 'get used to'
We use 'get used to' to express the process of change, whereby someone was or will become familiar with or accustomed to something.
The difference between 'be' and 'get' can be quite subtle in some cases. Let's compare it to an example from above to illustrate the difference.
Be Used To:
He is used to people staring at him as he has always dressed rather weirdly.
In this case he is now familiar with/accustomed to it. It's no longer odd or strange to have people staring.
Get Used To:
He is getting used to people staring at him as he has always dressed rather weirdly.
In this case he is not yet familiar with/accustomed to it - it's still a change in progress. The stage above (being used to it) has not been reached yet.
Again the way it is used is best understood through illustrations, so here are some examples of 'get used to'.
Examples of ' get used to':
- My new job starts at 6am. I'm not very good at getting up in the morning but I'm sure I'll get used to it. (he is not yet accustomed to early mornings, but he expects to be ok with it after a while)
- John doesn't think he'll ever get used to living without his partner, Jane. (John won't ever become accustomed to his new situation of living without his partner)
- Moving to a new country was difficult, but I eventually got used to it. (she moved to a new place in the past which was difficult/strange but after a while she became familiar with it)
- I've got(ten) used to being the only person in my family who eats vegan food. (being the only vegan felt odd at first but he's got comfortable with it over time)
- I'm getting used to the hard work on my course. It was vert stressful at first. (she is not completely used to the hard work yet, but she is getting accustomed to it)
The structure of 'get used to'
'Get' is a verb and 'used to' is an adjective. Given 'get' is a verb, it can act like a main verb and so conjugate for tenses or act as other types of verb, such as the infinitive or gerund. For example:
- I get used to feeling tired if I have to keep getting up early (Present Simple)
- I'm getting used to speaking French (present continuous)
- I've got(ten) used to my predicament (present perfect)
- I was getting used to the heat but now its turned cold again (past continuous)
Other Types of Verbs:
- I wish I could get used to driving this car (modal + infinitive)
- Getting used to being a manager is really difficult (Gerund)
Using Either 'Be' or 'Get Used To'
In some cases either of the phrases could be used. This can be seen with the present perfect:
- I've got used to the heat
- I'm used to the heat
These are saying the same thing because in both cases the person is familiar with/accustomed to the heat now.
In this case, we may use 'get' instead of 'be' simply because we are speaking at the time, which is a common situation for using the present perfect - in a conversation.
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