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I need to discover the semantic nuance between the phrasal verb "be accustomed to" and the idiom "get used to"!

E.g. please let me know how do the following examples differ in meaning:

  • We've been accustomed to working together.
  • We've got used to working together.

Or

  • It takes you a long time to get used to it.
  • It takes you a long time to be accustomed to it.

Or

  • He got used to finding fault with everything.
  • He is accustomed to finding fault with everything.

Or

  • I've got used to drinking my liquor neat.
  • I'm accustomed to drinking my liquor neat.

For me, all for pairs mean the same and the only difference is that "be accustomed to sth" is a formal term in English! Although, I have my doubts yet!

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There are different differences within the examples as presented (which I'm sure aren't exhaustive regarding possible distinctions, but let's stay focused).

1a: We've been accustomed to working together.
1b: We've got used to working together.
1c: We are accustomed to working together.

I've included a third alternative because that's a more common version that most closely matches 1a in implication (working together is what we're used to / expect). 1b could imply we might not even have wanted to work together when we started (but now we've come to tolerate, bear, put up with the situation.


2a: It takes you a long time to get used to it.
2b: It takes you a long time to be accustomed to it.
2c: It takes you a long time to become accustomed to it.

Where 2c replaces non-idiomatic 2b. I can't really see any scope for saying either version could imply anything different to the other. I'm sure 2a would be far more common in relaxed speech, but there's wrong with the slightly more formal 2c.


3a: He got used to finding fault with everything.
3b: He is accustomed to finding fault with everything.

Where 3a implies that he didn't want to keep finding fault(s), but they were there and he couldn't avoid them (perhaps he worked as a Quality Inspector). After a some time, it no longer bothered him that he had to keep finding fault(s).

3b, on the other hand strongly implies that he does want to find fault. Similar to 1a above, in that the implication is he both wants and expects to do so.


4a: I've got used to drinking my liquor neat.
4b: I'm accustomed to drinking my liquor neat.

Unquestionably here, 4a implies that originally you didn't like drinking neat liquor, but you had to do it so often you can now at least tolerate (and even perhaps enjoy) it. Whereas 4b might be a somewhat "imperious" request / command (Give me a glass of neat liquor, because that's what you normally have, and it's what you're expecting now). Or a withering complaint, if you've just been handed a glass of watered-down whisky when you wanted it full strength.


The main difference (apart from the fact that used to is much more common than accustomed to), is that usually, to be / get used to is more closely associated with adapting to a situation (through past exposure), whereas to be accustomed to often implies expecting / wanting some past pattern to be repeated in a current or future situation.

  • thank you for the comprehensive response, but I think it would be more helpful if you could rephrase or somehow edit this post in the manner that I could grasp your meaning! It seems me a little ambiguous! I guess perhaps you have changed it several times! – A-friend Apr 14 at 19:58
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    I don't know where to start. Well, I did know - I started my answer here by pointing out that there are different differences, at the levels of meaning, syntax, prevalence, and register / formality. So far as I can see, I've given a brief outline of (possible) differences for each of the 4 groups of alternative contexts in your question. You're not going to get an answer along the lines of Used to always means X, and accustomed to always means Y, because there isn't one. But if there's one example above that you don't understand, just tell me and I'll try to explain further. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 15 at 12:03
  • thank you for your concern and your attention! But the differences in meaning of my for provided examples are not understandable for me at all! I would be really appreciative if you do me a favor and somehow make your answer easier to be grasped! Thank you in advance. :) – A-friend Apr 15 at 12:19
  • That's not a meaningful response. Let's focus on just your first example. I assume you understand what I mean when I say that your 1a is relatively uncommon, and my 1c is the "more likely" equivalent. Apart from that, I've pointed out that 1a / 1c primarily allude to what we expect / desire. Whereas 1b is about what we've come to tolerate (due to repeated past exposure),with the implication that we don't (or at least didn't) particularly want it. Do you not understand that? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 15 at 12:43
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    Yes. It's not a 100% fixed distinction, but that accustomed to = expect, used to = tolerate very often applies. But there are further subtleties depending on the exact form of the verb. For example I am accustomed to a cooked breakfast every day could be used if the speaker has always had a cooked breakfast throughout his life (so naturally he wants and expects one today). But I have become accustomed to a cooked breakfast every day very strongly (unambiguously, I'd say) implies that there was a time (perhaps long ago) when I only used to get a bowl of cereal. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 15 at 16:11

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