Used to + infinitive: Which verbs can NOT be used in?


You know (and even me :slight_smile: ) that there is a group of verbs that normally are not used in the Present Participle form: like, know, etc

Is the pattern used also limits use of some verbs?

For example, used to know her sounds naturally and makes sense to me (= I knew her and certainly still know that she is somewhere, but now I have no contact with her. Right?)

Are there verbs that cannot be used within used to– pattern?

Hi Tamara,

I’d love to help but I don’t quite follow what you want to know. Could you have another shot, please.


Hi Alan

This week I started my grammar classes, but the next is on Thursday. :slight_smile:

You don’t use ‘I am liking’ – as like is ‘not-action’ verb (or how you name that?…)
seem, consist, understand, hate, etc….
There is a rule for that.

Something like that…
I would just like to know, is there (a group of) verbs that don’t make sense in the pattern used+infinitive.
I have a vague suspicious that they (such verbs) are, but have no evidence. :slight_smile:

Sometimes I’m in need to express something (that makes sense in my first language) with the pattern used-infinitive and some verbs, but… fear :slight_smile: :frowning:

For example, used to seem – does this make sense to you?

Briefly speaking: I would be happy to know that there is no ‘limitation’. :slight_smile:

Hi Tamara,

Thanks for your further explanation. Used to + infinitive in the sense of did at one time but not now would appear to be all right with most verbs. Off the top of my head I can’t see there would be a restriction on the type of verb. Your example: used to seem could be used as follows:

She used to seem as if she wasn’t interested in anything but now she appears to be fascinated by everything.


Aha! No restriction – that’s great!
Thanks a lot, Alan. :slight_smile:

Now I’ve recalled: my last trouble was with he (a researcher) used to discover (side effects of… bla-bla-bla…)
(i.e. when a verb refers to some ‘not-reversable’ activities in the past).


Hi Tamara
That’s an interesting way of looking at it --> “non-reversable”.

I’m not sure I understand it fully yet. I think I’d have said “verbs that can’t be done regularly over a long period of time or habitually”.

So, I guess you can add things such as this to your restriction list:

  • be born / come into the world
  • die / bite the dust / buy the farm

But you could say:
She used to dye her hair once a month. :lol: :wink:


Oops! Spelling blooper now repaired. :wink:


Of course you could say: babies used to die in early infancy in the 19th century/come into the world/be born prematurely in some situations/men used to bite the dust in their hundreds in Ireland/the oldest sons used to buy the farm when they had saved up enough.

Or am I being perverse?


Thank you!

Hi Alan

Yes, you’re right. I was looking at the idea of individual habit. The idea of one person habitually dying, for example, doesn’t work too well: “He used to die every week or so.” :shock:

On the other hand, I might be able to say such a thing about my first car.
“My first car used to die regularly.” :lol:



This reminds me of ‘Harold and Maude’ (that deliciously quirky love story between a twenty-year old and a septuagenarian) – Harold is obsessed with death and is always staging fake suicides (until he meets Maude).

Like a totally great offbeat story?:


Good Sunday morning, isn’t is? :slight_smile:

This is it… My chronic ailment, I mean…
(No, no… not dying :slight_smile: but just using ‘used to’ :slight_smile: )

To me, used + to + verb requires two things on the timescale - to be used correctly:
(1) the same object (let it be general, like ‘people’ from the Alan’s example…)
(2) action, the verb refers to, that switches to opposite (or just stopped).

Used to smoke, but now has given up.
Died regularly, OK – and now has just stopped doing that. :slight_smile:

Well, I’ll try to explain my (made-up?) trouble with the Amy’s example.

Amy’s first car did die regularly (in the past). OK.
Not now.
But… NOT because this car got improved :), but rather because

  • it’s not Amy’s car any more – even though it remains being the first forever :slight_smile:
  • it died once and for all – and now not a car any more, at all
  • Amy is still an owner, but she doesn’t drive the car any more (and has it just for sentimental memory :)). The car is in (one of :)) her garages, immovable :slight_smile: :frowning:

So, to my view, now the Amy’s first car is just unable to die regularly - the chain with (1)-(2) things on the timescale has broken… and I cannot admit the sentence :frowning:
The Past Simple or Past Perfect…

That’s my usual trouble with ‘used to’.
Anybody, untangle me, please. :slight_smile:

Hi Tamara

Amy’s first car used to die regularly, but after the last time it died, it refused to come back to life. So it is no longer able to die regularly since it is now permanently dead. :lol: 8)


Yes, Amy, that’s it.

Now there is no such an object at all - to speak about it in now
It does not exist and cannot act at all.

Hi Tamara,

Let’s get away from morbidity! The car used to work but now it doesn’t work - but the car can still exist even if it mopes in the garage. Am I making sense?