The Many Ways to Use ‘Get’

‘Get’ is an amazingly flexible word in English, particularly in spoken language. For the past tense the Americans often use ‘gotten’, but I’ll stick to British usage in this article. ‘Get’ is often used with prepositions to replace more complex words, which can be good for the learner.  However, it is a good idea to learn these fancier words, especially for your emails and reports. Let’s take a look at the wonderful world of ‘get’ – I will add the fancier words in brackets as I go along.

Get is often used to mean that we have received, acquired or bought something. It can also mean  achieve, do, move, change, contract, become and many many other things. Here’s a bunch of examples:

I get (receive) so many emails that it’s hard to get any work done (do any work).
I got (received) a parcel in the post this morning.
I got (contracted) the flu after visiting my friend in hospital.
I got (acquired/bought) my new cell phone from the Internet – it was really cheap.
I got (became) hungry after smelling the bakery as I walked past.

Add prepositions and you get (create) the following meanings. I’ve added explanations to the less obvious ones.

Get over here and get (take) a look at this!
I’ll be glad to get rid of this flu – I’ve had it for a week now.
He’s getting on (achieving/doing) really well at university, he gets (receives/achieves) such good grades!
Did she really think she would get away with (not get caught or noticed over) such an obvious lie?
I get so many interruptions that I am getting behind (running late) with my work.
Engineers are finding it hard to get at (find/discover) the root cause of the building’s collapse.
The kids are way too quiet! What are they getting up to (doing what they shouldn’t be doing)?
Nothing gets around (spreads) faster than bad news.
He got out of (avoided) washing the dishes by pretending he had to see a man about a dog.
How is your first day at work going? How are you getting on (managing/coping)?
Now we’ve had coffee, let’s get down to (start concentrating on) business.
My new supervisor is so critical. It’s really getting me down (depressing me)!
My salary is quite small, but we get by (have enough money for our needs).
My work load is so heavy I don’t know how I get through the day.
I’ll get back to you (call/send a message) when I have an answer.
The cat has climbed right to the top of that tree. How on earth is it going to get (climb/move) down?
Firemen had to use ladders to get up to the roof to rescue the boy.
We usually have a get-together (informal meeting) at the beginning of term. It gets us off to a good start.
He got off to a bad start when he insulted the boss on his very first day.
They had problems finding a cell-phone signal, but they got through (managed to call) in the end.
Why is he in such a bad mood?

Oh, he just got out of bed on the wrong side (this is an idiom which means that there is no good explanation for his bad mood).
Get on down brother!

I’ve heard this one a hundred times in movies and songs, but I still don’t get it (understand).

I’m sure there are many more uses of ‘get’ – but these should get you started 🙂




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