• Cecilia Viana

10 common uses of the verb "get"

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

I got the idea to write this post from my students, because I get this question all the time. And this is because the verb get is so versatile, it can be used in so many ways, that it gets confusing, and it’s normal for learners to get confused! I hope that with this article you can get rid of the confusion and get some answers. Let’s get started!

Get can:

  • Be used instead of other verbs,

  • Be part of a phrasal verb,

  • Be used in the passive voice , and

  • Be part of a causative structure.

In this article I’m going to focus on the first point: the instances in which get is preferred to other verbs. Get can adopt different meanings. The question is: why do people use get if there is another verb with a meaning that is specific for a certain situation? People prefer to use get because it is a simple, short word, and simple and short wins: the easier and faster it is to do something, the better. So, especially in spoken language, people tend to use get instead of other verbs.

In order to keep this article simple, I will focus only on 10 common meanings of get.

1. Obtain

I got a job as a software developer.

I can’t do this myself, I need to get professional advice.

Obtain involves making an effort; in order to get that job, you had to study, apply for the job and go to an interview.

2. Receive

I got a ring for my birthday.

I get lots of junk mail.

So, you may ask: What is the difference between obtain and receive? They mean the same to me! Well, actually, they don't. When you obtain something, you make an effort. In contrast, when you receive something, you make no effort.

3. Buy

I’ve been trying to get the book Atomic Habits; I’ve been to all the bookshops in the city, but I can’t find it!

You can get it online. I got mine on Amazon.

4. Fetch (to go and bring something back from somewhere else)

Imagine a mother leaving the house with her child on a freezing day in winter; she leaves first, and when the child goes out, he is wearing only one layer. So the mother says:

It’s cold outside! Go get your coat.

Go get your coat = go back inside and bring a coat.

5. Earn money

Primary school teachers in New Zealand usually get between 48K and 52k per year.

(K: one thousand dollars, or pounds).

6. Arrive

What time will you get here?

By the time we got to the airport, the plane had already left.

In my city, it is difficult to get to places on time if you rely on public transport, it's such a mess!

7. Catch an illness

Many people who got COVID-19 only experienced mild symptoms.

I never get the flu, not even in winter.

Smokers are at risk of getting cancer.

8. Become

I get nervous every time I have to give a presentation.

Don’t get mad! I’m just trying to help.

Drink slowly, or you can get drunk!

After living in New Zealand for a few years, I got used to seeing people walking barefoot outside.

There were no more tickets to see the All Blacks, but I got lucky and won two tickets on the radio!

Be careful with get lucky though, because in another context, it can have a very different meaning. In the sentence Many people go to nightclubs hoping to get lucky, get lucky means to find someone to have sex with. So careful!

By the way, what do you think Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams wanted to say in their song Get Lucky?

Get is also used to talk about changes in marital status. First, I got engaged, then I got married, and I hope never to get divorced!

9. Understand

I didn’t get the joke.

Many people say they worry about the environment, but they don’t do anything to change their habits. I don’t get it!

10. To prepare food or a meal

Sit down and relax; I’ll get you dinner.

This list is far from being complete; get can be used in many other ways. But in order to avoid overwhelming you, this is where I stop today. I hope it didn't get complicated, and that you've gotten some value from this article!

More uses of get coming soon :)

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