I'd like to know how to translate English sentences like "I used to do it" to German proper; for instance:

  • I used to read those books.
  • He used to go the theatre often.

For example, are the following correct/meaningful in German?

  1. Ich habe/hatte mich gewöhnt, es zu tun.

  2. Ich bin/war gewöhnt, es zu tun.

  • There are different translations available in German. To give you the right one more context is needed. Dec 6, 2018 at 9:39
  • 1
    You could improve your question by adding a number of "used to" examples (full sentences. The use of used to is pretty broad, and the German equivalents will be rather diverse. Dec 6, 2018 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


There are two distinct structures with use to in English, each with its own translation into German:

  1. somebody used to do something

    jemand hat früher etwas getan
    jemand hat (ein)mal etwas getan
    jemand pflegte etwas zu tun

  2. to get used to something

    sich an etwas gewöhnen

Even though your English sentence follows the first structure, your German example sentences are of the second structure.

  • 2
    The first one can be translated with the German phrase "zu tun pflegen" too. It sounds a bit outdated nowadays but it is still valid and understandable. In your example it would be "Er pflegte etwas zu tun". Especially in literature that is the best translation of "used to do something". Dec 6, 2018 at 9:44
  • used to to also does express some regularity. It can roughly be translated into german by hat immer das gemacht. Example: We used to go to France during holiday. translates to Wir sind immer nach Frankreich in den Urlaub gefahren.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Dec 6, 2018 at 10:17
  • @jonathan.scholbach Thank you for pointing this out. Even though the OP will certainly know this (because this regularity is also tacitly present in the English phrase), knowing about it allows one to translate the English phrase more flexibly. Dec 6, 2018 at 10:28
  • Is this also proper: I used to = Ich habe öfter gemacht, Ich habe (früher) immer gemacht ?
    – AlQuemist
    Dec 7, 2018 at 19:40

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