Sometime colloquial language is just plain strange, and doesn’t contain much reason as to why we say the things we do. Teaching the difference between ‘used to’ and ‘to get used to’ is one of those oddities.
It doesn’t have to be confusing. Follow these ideas on how to teach the difference and your students will get used to using used to in no time!
How to Teach the Difference Between USED TO & GET USED TO
The best way to introduce these two terms is to first explain them separately and then compare and contrast them through some activities. Defining used to is fairly straight-forward.
- - I am used to doing something
- - He/she/it is used to doing something
- - They/we are used to doing something
To be used to doing something means we are accustomed to that thing. It is a habit and provides information about our habits. When you are used to doing something, you are comfortable with it and it is usual for you. This explanation is very simple, and you can provide a lot of examples, getting input from the class.
- I am used to waking up early every day.
- Abby is used to working six days a week.
- My father is used to eating dinner with us.
The negative is also simple and you can provide more examples:
- Gary is not used to getting up early
- John is not used to having a job.
- I am not used to sleeping in.
Get Used To
To get used to doing something often takes a bit more explanation. This is a good lesson to show processes and how we don’t automatically just acquire habits. We go through a process to make something habitual or usual. In this explanation, you can supply more scenarios to get to the end point and play off of the examples you used above or earlier in the lesson. To get used to something is to become familiar with it, to possibly go through a change to acquire a new habit. You can show the different forms through examples.
- I am getting used to waking up early because I have a new job. Before this job, I worked nights so I always slept late into the morning. It is not easy getting used to waking up so early, but in a few more weeks, I am sure I will be used to it.
- John couldn’t find a job for many months. Finally, his cousin got him a job at Home Depot. Now he works 35 hours a week. He’s getting used to working almost every day and he is happy to have a job.
- Abby is not getting used to working six days a week. It is very difficult after only working for three days a week for a long time. She misses her children and doesn’t know how she will ever get used to her new hours.
To get used to something shows a transition and sometimes even a larger transformation. Depending on your students’ level you can provide more substantive examples and have students talk about their own transitions.
You can do sentence completions for both used to and get used to. You could also have students do questions rounds about their habits and routines. Students could share with partners information about their routines and then their partners could ask questions with used to and get used to. One great way to elicit natural usage is to have a discussion about a big change they may have experienced like living in a different country, speaking a foreign language or changing schools. Questions could be: What do you have to get used to? What do you never get used to? How do you get used to new things? This way the students get more speaking practice and can analyze the difficulties of change.
Teaching a topic like used to and get used to works best when it is personalized.
Create activities that get students talking about their lives and their habits, and you will get used to teaching used to with ease.