Quick grammar question

I have a friend who drives a red car. One day I see that friend driving a blue car. I ask the friend, “Didn’t you used to drive a red car?”

This doesn’t sound correct to me. And saying, “Didn’t you formerly drive a red car?” sounds stilted. Is there a better way to (correctly) phrase this question?

In my experience there is no elegant way to express the “used to” form in the negative.

This form is correct –

“Used you not to drive a red car?”

– but it’s hopelessly stilted.

For me, the most natural way to express this idea in conversation is –

“Didn’t you have a red car?”

– In my dialect, you usually say that someone has a particular car, rather than drives a particular car. You use “drive” only when actual driving is taking place – in other words –

“have” a car - owning or possessing or habitually using a car
“drive” a car - in the act of operating a car right now

It’s “didn’t use to” in the negative. Ergo: “Didn’t you use to drive a car.”

By analogy: “I had to go to work.” “Didn’t you have to go to work”

It’s also “use to” in questions: “Did you use to drive a car?”

[url=“http://www.bartleby.com/64/C001/065.html”]In case you want a citation.*

Fixed link

I agree with Pulykamell. The reason it sounds wrong is that “use to” and “used to” are pronounced identically. In fact, the form is rapidly cliticizing (becoming one word) usta, in parallel with such forms as wanna, hafta, and gonna. Thus the language matures.

Actually, I don’t think this is at all correct. “Used to” is either a marginal modal, or phrasal modal, depending on who you ask, and it’s considered to be one unit. I am pretty sure the rules are against splitting it in the way you are doing. It also sounds grammatically incorrect to the ear.

I might be wrong, but similar structure, like “Had you not to go to work?” sounds hopelessly wrong.

‘Didn’t you use to drive a red car?’


‘Did you get your car painted?’

Pulykamell, I know of no rule of English grammar that forbids such splitting of compound verbs, particularly in interrogative form –

“Had you not to go to work?” sounds awkward to me, but it’s not grammatically incorrect so far as I know.

Well, like I said, I’m not 100% positive, it’s just that I’ve never come across such a construction, and even googling for that construction (“had you not to”) gives less than a page of relevant results, suggesting it sounds hopelessly wrong to most ears.

But, furthermore, I’ve found this on marginal modal auxilliaries:

“Used to” and “had to” fits in the second category, which states “do” is used in the negative and interrogative forms.