"used in" vs "used for" vs "used to"

dear teacher,
please show me the differences between the structure ’ be used to do sth’ and ‘be used for doing sth/sth’ .and which cases can i use ’ be used in doing sth’ instead of that structures?
i look forward to hearing from you.

Hi Ginny,

I used to do something = I did this on a regular basis but now I don’t do this any more.

I am used to doing something = I have done this so many times that I have no problem doing it.

  1. She used to smoke 60 cigarettes a day but now she doesn’t smoke at all.

  2. She is used to working with other people and wouldn’t like to work on her own at home.


Offhand, I think you can use any of them in the same sentence, Ginny.

A pencil is used to write and sketch.
A pencil is used for writing and sketching.
A pencil is used in writing and sketching.

The ‘in’ form seems to me to suggest that the pencil is not the only tool employed.

Hi Ginny,

I’m afraid I didn’t read your question properly and I agree with Charles that there is little difference in the uses of ‘to’/‘in’/‘for’ after ‘used’. This is really a question of precision. Something that is used to do something suggests that this is its main function as in: This machine is used to manufacture paper. There is a slight difference between ‘for’ and ‘to’. ‘For’ suggests purpose as in: This machine is used for manufacturing paper and ‘in’: This machine is used in manufacturing paper suggests that this is just one of the machines among a number of other ones.


thank you very much! your answers are really clear! :slight_smile:

Sorry to bring up an old thread. I’d like to know if there are any other occasions that we could use “to + doing” besides “be used to doing” and “look forward to doing”? Thanks in advance.


It’s important to distinguish between ‘used to do’ and used to doing’. ‘Used to do’ suggests you did something on a regular basis but ‘used to doing’ suggests that you are accustomed to doing something.


Thank you very much, Alan. I’m sorry that I didn’t make myself clear. What I intented to say is: Normally, it requires the base form of a verb (bare infinitive form?) after the word “to”. However, there are some exceptions, such as “looking forward to doing” and “used to doing”. Could you please provide me some other expressions that are consisted of “to+doing”, if there are any? Thanks again.


I see what you mean. I can think of one or two off the top of my head: confess to/admit to/take to/object to as in:

He confessed to stealing the money = He told the truth and said that he had stolen the money.

He admitted (stealing) to stealing the money = The same really as ‘confess’.

She’s taken to playing the piano as if she was born to it = She’s started playing the piano as something quite natural to her.

He’s taken to going abroad for his holidays = This is something he’s just started to do.

They objected to waiting in a queue = They were against the idea of waiting in a queue.


Thanks again.:slight_smile:

Yet another expression with “to” being followed by verb+ing: get around to doing something.

And a pending candidate: guide to doing something. (I came across it when I was searching “to+doing” via google, not sure if it is correct.)