Odd Language #156: Used To

Piers Anthony’s Visual Guide to Xanth, by Piers Anthony and Jody Lynn Nye, p. 168: “fast overland snail: A gastropod that can move faster than most birds can fly. Used to transport messages from one end of Xanth to the other.”

The issue: Does “[u]sed to” mean that it is put to the use of transport or that it formerly did transporting?

One thought on “Odd Language #156: Used To

  1. The Crunger

    The expression is somewhat ambiguous since we don’t see whether it is present-tense “These are used to …”, or past-tense “These were used to …”.

    (Murrican) English is my first language, and the present-tense interpretation seems much more likely, without additional cues in context. If the sentence/paragraph read “Used to , but now .”, then the past tense intention might be assumed.

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