I am writing an essay for an exam where I am getting all the sentences with the word 'used to'. Is there a way I can write it without using it.

For example:

I used to be reluctant to eat food. My mother used to feel wrong about it and then she used to prepare different varieties. I used to try them but nothing interesting to me and then she used to scold and made me eat.

It seems like my complete essay will go like this with 'used to'. Is there a way to write the above passage without using 'used to' anywhere?

  • The idiomatic expression for children who are overly selective about the foods they eat is picky eater. Aug 7, 2018 at 17:57
  • I would actually like to keep the first sentence just the way it is now. ("I used to be reluctant to eat food.") I think it is an excellent example of the use of the phrase "used to." But the rest of the writing sample needs numerous changes. Those are well covered by the accepted answer.
    – David K
    Aug 8, 2018 at 11:25

4 Answers 4


There are a number of options:

English speakers frequently use would in the place of used to.

For example, they say things like:

When I lived in London I would go swimming after school

which has the same meaning as I used to.

So you might change the passage (and make several corrections) to read:

I was once reluctant to (eat or take) food. My mother would feel bad (rather than wrong) about it and then she would prepare different varieties. I would try them but nothing interested ( or was interesting to) me and then she would scold (me) and make (rather than made) me eat.

  • 2
    You can even change tense a little. "My mother would feel bad... I tried them but..."
    – John Feltz
    Aug 7, 2018 at 19:07

Firstly "I used to food" doesn't make sense. You're missing the word "eat" or similar.

You can use simple past tense for most of this narrative:

I used to be reluctant to eat food. My mother felt bad about it.

You can also use the "would" construction.

She would prepare different varieties...

There are other errors here, but you will benefit from doing your own proofreading.

  • You could also write, "I used to feed", but that just sounds... weird.
    – user428517
    Aug 7, 2018 at 20:36
  • 1
    I think this is more useful than the accepted answer, because I don't think an essay packed with "would [verb]" multiple times per sentence is much better than one with "used to [verb]" in the same places. Aug 7, 2018 at 20:46

You can try and find synonyms that mean roughly the same thing, without having to repeat the same words over and over.

Some examples could be

In the past I was reluctant to eat food

While I was younger, I was reluctant to eat food

My mother felt bad

I tried to like them, but they did not interest me

A lot of the times "Used to" will sounds like a go to, especially when you are talking about yourself in the past tense. While using synonyms, you are still expressing something that happened in the past and not using the same exact words each time.


At one time I was reluctant to eat many foods commonly prepared. My mother was concerned and so would prepare different varieties. I would try them but nothing about them interested me. Exasperated, she would then scold and compel me to eat.

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