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  • Daisy Hardy

English Grammar: The many uses of 'to get'

The verb 'to get' in English can be a little confusing as it is used in a number of different situations. Here I will explain the different contexts in which you can use 'get' and the different meanings it can have.

'To get' as a stand alone verb:

The most common uses of 'to get' can be connected to the idea of 'to obtain'.

For example:

To receive

To fetch/pick up

To buy

To earn

Although these are four different verbs with four different specific meanings, they can all be understood as a certain way of 'obtaining' something. After all, you obtain the things that you receive, fetch, buy and earn. Therefore they can all be replaced with the verb 'to get'.

1. To receive:

"I RECEIVED a letter in the post this morning."

"I GOT a letter in the post this morning."

2. To fetch/pick up:

"Can you FETCH the salt?"

"Can you GET the salt?"

"I'm going to PICK UP my washing from the dry cleaners."

"I'm going to GET my washing from the dry cleaners."

3. To buy:

"I'm going to the supermarket. Would you like me to BUY anything in particular?"

"I'm going to the supermarket. Would you like me to GET anything in particular?

4. To earn:

"She EARNS £10 an hour."

"She GETS £10 an hour."

Following on from this, you could consider it is also possible to 'obtain' information. Therefore the verb 'to understand' can also be translated with 'get'.

5. To understand:

"This exercise is really difficult. I don't UNDERSTAND it."

"This exercise is really difficult. I don't GET it."

(Note that here you always need a word after 'get'. You can't just say 'I don't get'. You need an object in the sentence, for example: 'I don't get it' or 'I don't get the question' or 'I don't get how to do it'. )

In the same way, you could consider that it is possible to 'obtain' an illness, and so 'to catch' in the context of being affected by an illness can also be translated with 'to get'.

6. To catch/be affected by:

"Last winter we all CAUGHT a bad cough."

"Last winter we all GOT a bad cough."

The following uses of the verb 'to get' no longer fit well with the idea of 'to obtain' something.

However they are all very common and very useful ways to use the verb 'get', so read on now to find out more!

7. To arrive (arrive at = get to):

"We ARRIVED AT the airport at 6 o' clock."

"We GOT TO the airport at 6 o' clock."

8. To catch/take transport:

"I TAKE the bus to work everyday."

"I GET the bus to work everyday."

9. To become:

"It BECOMES dark so early in the evening in winter."

"It GETS dark so early in the evening in winter."

"I'm BECOMING hungry now."

"I'm GETTING hungry now."

(Note that in these examples, 'get' sounds much more natural in English than 'become'.)

10. To have a strong emotional effect on:

"That film really AFFECTED me. It was really sad. "

"That film really GOT me. It was really sad. "

11. To capture/seize:

"Have the police CAPTURED the robber yet?"

"Have the police GOT the robber yet?"

12. To have - but only with 'get' in the present perfect tense:

"I HAVE a red car."

"I'VE GOT a red car."

(Note that using 'I've got' is a little informal in comparison to 'I have'. However this use is very common in spoken English.)

This also works with the verb 'to have to'. "I HAVE TO leave now."

"I'VE GOT TO leave now."

'To get' in phrasal verbs:

You will also come across many phrasal verbs in English that use the verb 'get'. Here are ten of the most useful phrasal verbs with 'get'.

1. To get at someone - to criticise or irritate someone. "I know I should stop smoking. Stop GETTING AT me. Leave me alone."

2. To get away with - to succeed in escaping blame or punishment. "He GETS AWAY WITH so much just because he is the favourite child."

3. To get back - to return. "We GOT BACK from our holiday on Tuesday."

4. To get by - to have just enough of something (often money) in order to survive or in order to accomplish something. "I don't earn much but it's enough to GET BY." "We don't have much food in the cupboard but I think we can GET BY for a few days."

5. To get someone down - to cause someone to feel sad or depressed. "The rain really GETS ME DOWN."

6. To get on/off - to enter/leave a bus, train or plane. "We're GETTING OFF at the next stop."

7. To get on/along (well) with someone - to have a good, friendly relationship with someone. "Do you GET ON WELL WITH your parents?"

8. To get over - to recover from something physically or emotionally. "She still hasn't GOT OVER the break up. She really misses him."

9. To get together - to gather or meet socially. "Shall we GET TOGETHER next week to have a catch up?"

10. To get up - to rise from bed after sleeping. "I GET UP at 8am every day."


As always, feel free to leave a comment with any questions! :-)

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