Which of the following 3 options is correct, assuming that she doesn't work anymore (and of course she doesn't drink tea before work anymore as she doesn't work anymore):

  1. She used to drink tea and then started her job.
  2. She used to drink tea and then start her job.
  3. She used to drink tea before starting her job.
  • "Before" is the word you want to use, but I'm still trying to figure out exactly why. "And then" implies that the two actions are a sequence of some kind, and while we might drink tea to wake up before working, it's not necessarily a set pattern. – Andrew Oct 28 '16 at 20:55
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    Only the first is incorrect in English. "Used to drink" is not equivalent to "drank". "Used to" takes the unmarked infinitive, not the participle. The third is most idiomatic, but there's nothing wrong with the second. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 28 '16 at 21:54
  • @P.E.Dant: I'd say the second implies that she finished her tea before starting her job, while the third could apply if she drank some tea, started her job, and then finished the tea. Which is more appropriate would depend upon her actual tea-drinking habits. – supercat Nov 3 '16 at 22:18
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    I would rather say "she used to drink tea before going to work." If you say "before starting her job" it sounds to me like it means she habitually drank tea during a time when she was unemployed, before she got a job. – The Photon Aug 25 '17 at 2:47
  • @DavidWashington Why do you say that? The tenses are quite okay. – SovereignSun Oct 25 '17 at 15:57

The phrase "start her job" can refer to her entire period of employment (that is, her getting hired) or her shift for a particular day.

The phrase "used to" takes an infinitive, so in the first one, "used to" can't apply to "started". (If you take out "drink tea" and just say "She used to started her job", that would be grammatically incorrect). Since "started" is thus not a habitual action, it must refer to her getting hired. So your first example means "Before she got hired, she used to drink tea", and implies that she stopped drinking tea after she was hired.

In your third sentence, both readings are possible: "starting" could be a habitual action preceded by drinking tea, or it could be a one-time process of being hired. It can be read as "She used to (drink tea before starting her job)" or "She (used to drink tea) before starting her job"; that is, it could mean that both drinking tea, and then starting her job, were things she repeatedly did, or it could mean that drinking tea was something she repeatedly did, and all of those instances of drinking tea occurred before one instance of getting hired.

With your second sentence, only the "She used to drink tea before each shift" reading works. Since this is the least ambiguous wording, you sthis is the best one out of the three.

You could also say "She used to drink tea before starting her job each day." @ThePhoton 's suggestion of "she used to drink tea before going to work." or just "She used to drink tea before work".

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Third one is probably correct.

She used to drink tea before starting her job.

It implies that Drinking tea (everytime) before starting work was her habit. That is, I'm talking about her in her absence and I'd say "She used to drink tea before starting work/her job."

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  • She used to drink tea and then start her job.
  • She used to drink tea before starting her job.

Both the second and the third are correct. The first one is incorrect since the tenses don't match and the second part doesn't match the used to part.

The second can be understood as, "She used to drink tea and start her job afterwards" - she started her job after she had finished drinking tea.

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