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Didn't you used to

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 21, 2006

In Reply to: Didn't you used to posted by R. Berg on March 17, 2006

: : Didn't you used to - how wrong is that??? I hear it all the time on the media..

: It's ungrammatical but popular in casual speech.

But let's try another spelling. "Didn't you use to ....?" We are more perhaps used to a form like, "Yes, I used to ...." The grammar, if the spelling above is used, is correct for both phrases, the question and the answer. Substitute "be accustomed (to)" and see how it goes. I used to have the smoking habit. The pigs didn't use to have such a large sty. Note that "use" in this meaning is pronounced with a voiceless or sibilant "s." Thus "used to" and "use to" are pronounced the same way, which may account for some of the spellings seen below.

The OED discussion could be confusing if not read carefully. "[use] 21. With to and inf.: To be accustomed or wont to do something.
In very frequent use from c 1400, but now only in pa. tense used to,... and colloq. in did (not) use (or used) to: see also USEN'T, USETER; used to could: see CAN v.1 A. 7. [citations:]
1303 R. BRUNNE Handl. Synne 691 For ryche men vse comunly Sweryn [v.r. to swere] grete o{th}ys grysly. Ibid. 2661 c1385 CHAUCER L.G.W. 787 Thisbe, For olde payenys that Idolys heryed Vsedyn tho in feldys to ben beryed. c1386 {emem} Reeve's T. 20 A theef he was,..a sly, and vsaunt [v.r. usand] for to stele. c1440 Gesta Rom. v. 12 His modir vsith euery day gretly to sorowe. ... 1612 WEBSTER White Devil I. ii. 202 Your silke-worme useth to fast every third day. 1625 J. KING David's Strait 15 As we vse to maligne a Bayliue. 1670 MILTON Hist. Eng. VI. 304 The English then useing to let grow on their upper-lip large Mustachio's. 1728 GAY Begg. Op. II. iv, You are not so fond of me, Jenny, as you use [sic] to be. 1767 Woman of Fashion II. 26 How did we all use to admire her! ... 1925 S. LEWIS Arrowsmith xviii. 192 Didn't we used to have fun. 1927 E. HEMINGWAY Men without Women 154 He certainly did used to make the fellows he fought hate boxing. 1935 E. FARJEON Nursery in Nineties III. i. 124 Mama, did you use to be a flirt? 1963 V. NABOKOV Gift ii. 117 And now I continually ask myself what did he use to think about in the solitary night. 1974 Radio Times 28 Feb. 25, I suppose I did use to be a prophet of doom."

I omitted many citations, but it's obvious that some very good writers used the verb "use" in a manner that I consider ungrammatical (e.g., Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway). Does this answer your question? .SS.