didn't use to

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didn't use to

Post by azz » Sat May 23, 2020 11:51 pm

a. I didn't use to smoke when I was in college. I think I must have smoked ten cigarettes in all in those four years.
b. I didn't use to smoke when I was in college but I sometimes did.
c. I didn't use to smoke when I was in college but I did once in while.



Which of the above are acceptable?

Many thanks.
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Re: didn't use to

Post by trolley » Sun May 24, 2020 12:21 am

I equate "didn't use to" with "I never", so they all seem a little off, to me. If you said "I didn't use to smoke very often when...", then you could add how little you did.
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Re: didn't use to

Post by Phil White » Tue May 26, 2020 2:18 pm

There is something about "didn't use to" that seems very wrong to me when I see it written, but it is perfectly correct and is in widespread spoken use. It's just something that irks me a little. Strange that, as I am usually very tolerant!

For me, all the sentences are fine. I regard the idiom "used to" as referring to something which happened habitually, or something which was a regular occurrence. From that perspective, I disagree with trolley. For me, the sentences mean "although I didn't smoke habitually, I did occasionally". As I say, I find all the sentences fine for expressing that idea.

I would be interested to hear what others think.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: didn't use to

Post by trolley » Tue May 26, 2020 4:39 pm

I'm not a big fan of "didn't used to", either. "Used to" is something that happened in the past, but (probably) does not happen anymore. "Usually" is something that happened with regularity that may or may not still happen. "Use to" does imply some degree of regularity (I can't think of an example where "used to" does not mean repetitively) but it seems to get a little muddied when you add "didn't"... It didn't happen, or it didn't happen regularly?
"Didn't usually smoke when I was in college..." makes all three of those sentences crystal clear. "Didn't used to smoke when I was in college..." could mean you never had a single cigarette. In fact, that is the way it first lands on me. Even though the rest of the sentence clarifies the meaning, I had already assumed you never smoked in college and then had to re evaluate your statement.
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