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In the phrase

We’re all used to (some-special-word) to mean something different.

would it also be correct to switch the infinitive with the gerund form, resulting in:

We’re all used to (some-special-word) meaning something different.

  • @Mistu4u I'm not sure about this used of vs used to thing. Look for instance at this arbitrary internet example notreallyaustralian.blogspot.de/2009/03/…. There you have: "That's how Tim is. I'm pretty used of it by now." – stacky-bit Jan 26 '13 at 14:53
  • I suppose Use of is colloquial. I could not find any dictionary reference of Use of. Hope somebody can shed some this doubt! – Mistu4u Jan 26 '13 at 15:10
  • I've never heard 'used of' (native British speaker). Also, see ngram. – OJFord Jun 10 '14 at 15:39
  • "used to" is a very imprecise indication because it does not show whether you mean "to be used to something" meaning to be accustomed to sth or the defective verb "used to do", when speaking of former habits or conditions. You have two totally different verbs. A look at a dictionary would be no bad idea. – rogermue Sep 22 '15 at 11:09
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I believe you are confusing two different constructions here.

Both employ the verb use in the broad sense “do habitually”. And in both, the verb is used today only with the -D form: used.

In one construction, used represents the past tense and is used with the marked infinitive of another verb—that is, the infinitive form with the particle to in front of it. In this case, used may mean 1) simply “did habitually”, or it may imply 2) “did then, but no longer do so”:

used + [to-infinitive]
 1. When I was a kid we used [to swim] in the lake.
 2. People used [to believe] that the world is flat.

In the other construction, used is a past participle employed as an adjective. It is ordinarily preceded by a form of the verb be.

ADDED: ... or, as Paola observes, a form of the verb get. But this would be deprecated in formal contexts — a form of become would be preferred.

In this case it is still employed with to—but now to is a preposition and must be followed by 1) a noun or noun phrase, which may be 2) a gerund or gerund phrase. In this case, used bears the sense “accustomed” or “inured”

be used + to + [NP]
 1. As a sailor he was used to [hardships].
 2a. We are very used to [being misunderstood].
 2b. I am used to [Mike borrowing my bike].

That yields this, which I think is what you intend by the revised example in your question:

 We are all used to [democracy meaning something different in different contexts].

Note that in both of these constructions, the collocation used to is pronounced with an unvoiced /s/ rather than the /z/ called for in ordinary uses of used. In dialogue you’ll often see this indicated with “useta*. In effect, used to is becoming a distinct modal, like hafta or wanta.


After you posted your link I did a quick-and-dirty Google on “get used of it”, and it is apparent that used of is coming into currency as an alternative to the second construction I describe. (If you perform the test for yourself, be warned that the number of hits Google reports at the top of the page is essentially meaningless.)

However, as this NGram shows you, this is not Standard English. It may become Standard English someday, but it’s not there yet.

  • I agree about get normally being a less formal verb than others (see for example "I had/got my car serviced yesterday"); however, in this context I generally find sentences like "I'm getting used to the heat" instead of becoming or other verbs, both in language textbooks and in normal usage. I wonder whether it is due to the fact that my sources are normally British English. – Paola Jan 26 '13 at 15:50
  • "Used of" is not something I hear much or say at all, however - "used to" is something that I hear (and use) quite frequently in conversation. "I still can't get used to this heat", "I'm used to getting stuck in traffic every morning now", etc. – Deco Jan 26 '13 at 16:35
  • @StoneyB Now, if you could include the NP variant à la used to Mike riding my bike in your answer, and say, that would be the second sentence of the question, it would be perfect, and I would happily move the check mark to this answer. – stacky-bit Jan 26 '13 at 18:29
  • @stacky-bit I've added used to Mike riding my bike, and reconstructed your example with democracy for the "special word". – StoneyB Jan 26 '13 at 19:05
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I'd say that the correct sentence is the second one.

In fact, the expressions be used and get used are formed by a verb followed by an adjective and a preposition, normally to, which in turn may be followed by a noun or by a verb. As a rule, when a verb is preceded by a preposition, it is used in the gerund.

So, I would say

I'm used to riding my bike

by which I mean to say that riding my bike is no new thing to me, I've done it often, but I could also say

I'm used to Mike riding my bike

which indicates the fact that Mike frequently takes my bike and rides it, and I don't complain about it (or no longer do it...)

As for the possibility of using the preposition of instead of to in these sentences, I suppose it could be a regional form, but personally I've never seen it used.

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