0

i) 

"I used to be able to do it." 

What's the negative form of the abovementioned sentence? Is it natural to say - "I used to be able to not do it."? 

ii) 

is there any grammatical (like punctuation) error in (i) 

  • For the negative, I'd say "I used to be unable to do it." – nnnnnn Dec 22 '19 at 14:20
  • 'Use[d] to' and 'be able to' are semi-modals; putting the two together multiplies complicating factors. 'I used to be able to do it' may mean either 'Once, I had mastered the art / skill ... of doing it and so had the competence to do it' (epistemic modality) or 'Once, I was permitted to do it' (deontic modality).So 'I used to be able to not do it' can mean either ''Once, I had the skill ... to be able to avoid doing it' or 'Once, I was permitted to not do it'. But note that 'be able not to ...' is the usual ordering. //// 'I wasn't once able to do it' sounds more idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 22 '19 at 14:22
  • @nnnnnn said "I used to be unable to do it". Or perhaps "I used to be able to not do it" is intended to mean "I used to be able to resist doing it." – GEdgar Dec 22 '19 at 14:32
  • What are you trying to express with the negation? – Lawrence Dec 22 '19 at 15:12
  • 1
    "I couldn't do it before" would be fine. "I used to be unable to do it" is pretty much the same meaning, but slightly more formal. "I was previously unable to do it" is what you'd write in a business letter. – The Photon Dec 22 '19 at 16:21
1

One answer is

I didn't use(d) to be able to do it.

It is spelled both with and without the "d", and people argue over which way is grammatical, but the pronunciation is the same for both cases.

| improve this answer | |
  • This is the right answer. These work-rounds are all very well, but in real English, that people speak, the negative of I used to is I didn't use(d) to. – Colin Fine Jan 27 at 20:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.