This activity helps practice through speaking three often confused grammar structures: used to, be used to, get used to. The aim is to show the difference in meaning and structure by allowing students use used to, be used to, get used to to describe habits or changes in their personal lives. It is suitable for upper-intermediate or FCE students.
Start by brainstorming important moment / changes in people’s lives. Possible answers include: having a baby, getting married, moving out of your parents’ house, starting university, graduating from university, starting a new job, getting a divorce, moving abroad, etc.
Choose one important moment and ask your students to imagine their lives have just changed: they have just had a baby. Nothing will ever be the same again!
Write used to on the board and ask them to work with a partner to answer the questions: What was your life before you had a baby? What did you use to do that you now can’t because of the baby? What didn’t you use to do and now you have to because of your baby?
I used to have a lot of free time (but now I am really busy with my new baby).
I used to sleep longer at weekends (but now I never know when the baby will be up).
I did not use to go to the park so much ( but now I do because my baby loves long walks in the park)
Write your students’ answers on the board. Pay attention to grammar ( used to + infinitive / did not use to + infinitive).
Look at be used to. A new parent is used to peace and quiet at home, but he or she is not used to getting up in the middle of the night or changing diapers. Let your students come up with more ideas, and monitor the grammar ( be used to + a noun / gerund)
Move on to get used to. Explain that new situations in life make us learn new routines and create new habits. With a new baby, for example, you have to get used to sleeping less. Brainstorm more ideas with your students, emphasise the grammar ( get used to + gerund).
Time for some independent practice. distribute the worksheets or blow the image up on the board. Students need to imagine their lives have just changed in four different situations and finish the sentences. The may work individually or in pairs. Monitor their progress and pay special attention to grammar. Once they finish, compare different answers. You might discuss which life change is the hardest to get used to.
This has been one of the most confusing grammar points I have come up against in class. Three quite similar structures with different meaning and form…that is enough to drive students crazy and make them feel confused. I was looking for a way to personalise this topic for them and make the differences between the three structures visible and logical. My groups really enjoyed this activity and came up with brilliant examples to illustrate the use of used to, be used, get used to. I enjoy holding a brief discussion at the end of class to find out whether they had ever experienced a big life change and had to get used to doing something new. With less talkative groups, I simply try to decide which life change from the worksheet is the most demanding and why. One way or another, students start using these three different structures to talk about more personalised content, which makes grammar more memorable and understandable.