Different uses of get

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The word get has countless meanings as both a single word and when combined with an adverb or preposition to form phrasal verbs. Moreover, there are tons of other useful collocations with get. With all this in mind, let’s check out the many different uses of get.


EVERYDAY VERBS AND COLLOCATIONS

When I wrote a post proposing a model spoken English syllabus for learners at the intermediate level, I drew reference to the Longman Spoken and Written English (LSWE) corpus.

This corpus makes reference to the frequency of the most common lexical verbs in various samples of conversation. Take a look:

most common lexical verbs in spoken English

Hence, it’s plain to see just how vital it is for progressing learners to pay heed to the sheer versatility of get. Moreover, there are some very good reasons why English language learners should learn collocations, as I outlined in this post. 


WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS MEANINGS OF GET?

Before we get into all those wonderful phrasal verbs and collocations, let’s check out some of the most common meanings of get:                                 


1. obtain something you want or need

I only asked her to get me some information about the bank

2. receive or be given something

I got a new wallet for my birthday

She got my email yesterday

3. buy something

We need to get some milk on the way home

4. earn / earn an amount of money by selling something

I reckon she gets over £50,000 a year

I can’t get a good price for my summer tires, even though they’re only four months old

5. take a form of public transport

My mum gets the bus to work 

Shall we get a taxi to the stadium?

6. understand (a joke or someone’s point etc)

I didn’t get any of her jokes - did you?

7. arrive

What time did you get here last night?

If you get to the pub before us, just wait in the usual place near the pool table


WHEN DOES GET MEAN BECOME?

When considering all of the different uses of get, it’s equivalence to the word become is worthy of a mention.

Get and become are commonly used with the same collocations. Nevertheless, become is more formal and hence more appropriate in written English:

She quit smoking when she got / became pregnant

I’d like to get / become involved in raising money for charity

To achieve the equivalent meaning to become, you may use get with adjectives. For instance, if someone gets cold, they become cold. Other adjectives which follow get include excited, depressed, upset, violent, mad, bored, angry:

There’s no reason to get upset

The kids are getting bored


WHEN should YOU USE BECOME AND NOT GET?

Similar to get with adjectives, become takes the meaning of “to change and start to be something different” - but with nouns as well as adjective and noun combinations.

For example:

He became a newspaper journalist after graduating (NOThe got a journalist”)

She was the first woman to become President

Of course I can become a better teacher 

He became a really sad and lonely man after the divorce


COMMON PHRASAL VERBS WITH GET

There are plenty of phrasal verbs with get.

Let’s dive in:

1. get at - try to suggest something without saying it directly

I haven’t got a clue what she’s trying to get at

2. get on with - continue

Please get on with your work - the fun’s over now

3. get out of - avoid doing something you don’t want to do

I’m not able to get out of the meeting

4. get over - recover from an illness

He managed to get over the flu in time for his holiday to Turkey

5. get through - manage to deal with a difficult situation

If I get through the first five minutes of the presentation, I’ll be fine

6. get around - move from place to place

I’ll have to buy a car in Russia to get around

7. get through to someone - make a person understand something

Jonny’s taking drugs again. Jane’s going over next week so I hope she’ll be able to get through to him

_____

It’s worth pointing out that quite a few phrasal verbs have literal and non-literal meanings. For instance, the literal meaning of take out is to remove something from somewhere:

I got a bit worried when the policeman took his notebook out

A more idiomatic meaning of take out is to receive something officially, for example, from a bank or insurance company:

I took out travel insurance last week

Check out this great post for further examples of phrasal verbs with literal and idiomatic meanings. 


COMMON COLLOCATIONS WITH GET

Let’s not forget that there are tons of collocations with get. Let’s check some of them out:

1. get a haircut - have your hair cut 

It’s about time I got a haircut

2. get a call - receive a call 

You should get a call from the Inland Revenue later. They called this morning when you were at the post office

3. get a tan - become brown, or to make someone's body or skin, etc. brown, from being in the sun

I’m not really concerned about getting a tan when I go on holiday

4. get home - arrive home

Call me as soon as you get home

5. get a job 

His dream is to get a job at Facebook

6. get drunk - drink too much alcohol so you lose control over normal physical and mental functions

Mike got drunk last night and ended up hitting someone in the pub

7. get married - begin a legal relationship with someone as their husband or wife

They’d like to get married after the child is born

8. get some sleep - to go to bed and sleep

It’s been a long day. I need to get some sleep

9. get dressed - put some clothes on

Get out of bed and get dressed

10. get pregnant - become pregnant

Mary didn’t intend to get pregnant but I think she’s happy she did


ALTERNATIVES TO GET

GO INSTEAD OF GET

When it comes to changes in people’s appearance, physical abilities and personality, use go:

People go bald / grey / blind / deaf / mad / crazy

Use go for sudden, usually negative, changes:

He fell over on stage and went really red

TURN INSTEAD OF GET

Turn often collocates with colours:

The sky turned gold as the sun set

Pick the tomatoes when they turn red

HAVE INSTEAD OF GET

Students of English often mistakenly use get instead of have with certain collocations. However, the following two sentences are correct:

He had a heart attack last year

If I had a child, I’d raise him much differently to the way my parents raised me



REAL-LIFE PRACTICE WITH GET

When it comes to exploring the many different uses of get in (natural) context, I recommend intermediate level students to study TED talks.

One of the most attractive features of TED talks for English language learners is the transcripts.

You may home in on collocations which contain a certain word by using your computer’s search box.

Take a look at the range of phrases with get in one small part of Jamie Oliver’s most famous TED talk:

ted talk transcript

So, we have:

1. get bullied - to be hurt or frightened by someone, often over a period of time

2. get home - arrive home

3. get buried - to bury something means to put it into a hole in the ground and cover it up with earth

4. get someone out the door - physically remove somebody from a room/house etc


THE MANY DIFFERENT USES OF GET

The sheer versatility and ubiquitousness of the word get makes it a topic worth including in every single English language syllabus in schools. Moreover, freelance EFL teachers should draw their students’ attention to get in news articles, TED talks and any other materials.

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