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The Many Faces of "Get"

Jul 23, 2020 | 1 Comments

When you study English as a foreign language, you learn many weird and wonderful words, but this sometimes feels like a bit of a wasted effort, as native speakers like to use just a few words with lots of different meanings!

 

One of the worst examples of this is the word ‘get’; particularly in informal conversation, the word ‘get’ can be used to replace a long list of different verbs, and in today’s blog I’m going to look at four of the most common:

 
'Get' as 'become'
 

“It’s getting cold, let’s go home”

 

The word ‘get’ is very often used to mean ‘become’; for example, instead of saying “I watched the news until I became bored”, it would sound far more natural in conversation to say “I watched the news until I got bored”.

 

Examples:

“He’s a great football player, but he’s getting old now.”

“Scientists agree that the Earth is getting warmer.”

“I got tired after just 20 seconds of running!”

“Eat your soup, or it will get cold!”

“I used to watch The Walking Dead, but I got bored.”

“The London Underground gets very hot in summer.”

 

NB: Be careful, we don’t use ‘get’ this way with nouns, only adjectives, so while we can say both “Stephen got rich” and “Stephen became rich”, we cannot say “Stephen got a billionaire.” to mean “Stephen became a billionaire”

 
'Get' as 'receive/acquire'  

“I got a bike for my birthday!”

 

There are a number of situations where we use ‘get’ to replace a verb that means ‘receive’; for example, when children receive different presents and want to compare, they might ask each other “What did you get?”, and they might ask exactly the same question after a school test, if they wanted to compare their results “I got 74%” etc.

 

Examples:

Earn - “He gets £45,000 a year”

Catch - “He did it, he got the ball!”

Contract - “I got malaria when I was travelling in the tropics”

Buy - “I went to the supermarket to get some eggs and butter”

Win - “I won the lottery, but I only got £10”

Source - “We got the aluminium from a Chinese company”

 

NB: Be careful not to confuse this with “have got”; remember that “I got a sofa” probably means ‘I bought a sofa’, while “I’ve got a sofa” simply means ‘I have a sofa’ or ‘I own a sofa’.

 
'Get' as 'arrive'
 

“What time did you get home last night?”

 

This is one of the most common uses of ‘get’, one that you will hear every day. Instead of saying “I usually arrive home at 6pm”, we would more often say “I usually get home at 6pm”.

 

Examples:

“I usually get to the airport around 4 hours before my flight.”

“When is David going to get here?”

“We got to the end of the road, and turned back.”

“I’m leaving the house now, so I’ll probably get to the pub at 8 o’clock.”

“The first person to get to the finish line wins the race.”

“When I got to the break room, the pizza had already been eaten.”

 

NB: Be careful of the prepositions; while ‘arrive’ uses ‘in’ or ‘at’ (e.g. “I arrived at the airport”/”I arrived in New York City”), get uses ‘to’ (e.g. “I got to the airport”/”I got to New York City”)

 
 
'Get' for 'be' in passive sentences.
 

“My car got stolen last night.”

 

First, the basics. As you may already know, when we make passive sentences we use a form of ‘be’ with the past participle form of a verb, so for example for the verb ‘eat’ we would use the past participle ‘eaten’. Thus the active sentence “Somebody ate my cake!” becomes the passive sentence “My cake was eaten (by somebody)!”.

In many cases, particularly for negative or bad results, we can replace the verb ‘be’ with the verb ‘get’, so in conversation “My cake was eaten” might become “My cake got eaten”

 

Examples:

“He got punched in the face!”

“Be careful, or it will get damaged.”

“A lot of snowboarders got injured in the crash.”

“I hope nothing gets broken during transport.”

“My laptop doesn’t work because coffee got spilled on it.”

 

NB: We don’t use ‘get’ with passive state verbs, such as ‘know’, ‘love’, or ‘believe’, so while we can say “The Beatles are loved in Germany”, we cannot say “The Beatles get loved in Germany”.

 
Further examples:

Have a look at these various examples in specific contexts. In each case, which verb has ‘get’ replaced?

 

Travel:

“Which website did you get the tickets from?”

“My flight got delayed by 6 hours!”

“What time does the train get to Istanbul?”

“Budget flights are getting quite expensive these days.”

 

Business:

“We need to get that report before Monday.”

“We got approval for the project in June.”

“Oscar got promoted to Regional Manager.”

“We need to get involved in the Chinese market.”

“Did you get those March sales figures?”

 

Academia:

“You should try to get to the exam hall at least an hour before the exam starts.”

“I need to get a 6.5 on the IELTS, but I got a 6.0 last time.”

“In the last year of university, the work got harder and harder.”

“The students on the advanced course get given loads of homework.”

 

That’s all for today, I hope this gave you a better idea of how ‘get’ is used in informal and casual conversations, but this not the whole story. We use the verb get in a number of other ways too, but that shall have to wait for part two!

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