I tried to pass an exam at www.newschool.co.uk site. One of the questions was to choose correct variant among phrases:

A: I just can’t get used to cycle on the left-hand side of the road!

B: I just can’t used to cycle on the left-hand side of the road!

C: I just can’t get used to cycling on the left-hand side of the road!

D: I don’t get used to cycling on the left-hand side of the road!

I choosed A but the site said that the correct variant was C. In school I was taught that the gerund (-ing) cannot be used with the particle 'to", while infinitive needs it. Have the grammar rules changed in the last 40 years?

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  • 2
    The rule you were taught in school is not a good one. I can think of many contexts where the word to can appear before a gerund. This is just one case. Incidentally, (D) could be correct here too, in certain contexts. I would never use (A) or (B) - they both seem wrong to me. – Dawood ibn Kareem Nov 5 '16 at 0:06
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    One thing that has certainly not changed in the past 40 years is the past participle of the verb to choose! – P. E. Dant Nov 5 '16 at 2:54
  • It's the "get" bit which probably threw you off your bike. If the sentence had started with I am not used to... you would have seen that used was being used differently from how you were probably used to seeing it (groan). – Mari-Lou A Nov 5 '16 at 8:41

No, this aspect of grammar has not changed, but the rule you state only applies to one usage of used to. But in fact "used to" has two definitions.

When used to is used as a verb, then your grammatical analysis is correct -- it must be followed by an infinitive. This is what you would do when indicating that an action took place in the past (often or habitually).

I used to wake up every morning at 7, but now that winter is here, I can sleep in until 9!

However, used to can also be an adjective, indicating familiarity with something. In this case, "to" is a preposition rather than an infinitive marker, and the phrase is followed by a noun, indicating what you are familiar with. It may be that you are accustomed to performing some action; in this case you would use the gerund of that verb.

I'm used to American English, so some British conventions sound very strange to me.

He's used to his parents spoiling him; he'll have a hard time in the real world.

The latter usage is what's being used in your example. We can tell that used to can't be the verb here, because the main verb of the sentence, get, is already present.

  • 1
    +1 And of course, the student's understanding of this distinction is exactly what the exam question is meant to test for... – P. E. Dant Nov 4 '16 at 20:24
  • Thanks for detailed explanation. However, in the phrase "I love to cycle" the main verb "love" does not forbid using of another verb, "cycle". – rfq Nov 4 '16 at 21:30
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    @rfq "Love to [infinitive]" is a verb. "Used to [sth]" in your examples is meant to be an adjective, not a verb. That is why answer A is incorrect, and why answer C is correct. "Used to" as an adjective modifies a noun or noun phrase (in this case the gerund of "cycle") and not an infinitive. The "to" in "used to" here is not an infinitive marker for the verb "cycle". It doesn't belong to the verb; it's part of the adjectival phrase "used to". – P. E. Dant Nov 4 '16 at 22:17
  • @rfq That's true, but used to wouldn't be able to be used in the same way because it doesn't have an infinitive. As a verb, it is always in the past tense. Something like "I get to used to cycle" wouldn't make sense. – cbh Nov 4 '16 at 23:28

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