The Secret to Expressions with ‘GET’

Expressions with get have many meanings

Why use Expressions with ‘GET’?

Native speakers use the word ‘get’ a lot. It seems to be in almost every second sentence that they say. For the English student it can be quite confusing. Most students think of ‘get’ as similar to ‘take’, but it can also mean become, go, arrive, receive, fetch, buy, or obtain. Native speakers prefer to use ‘get’ instead of those words because ‘get’ is shorter, faster, friendlier, less formal, and in short, more natural than those other words. English students that insist on using become, arrive, obtain, receive instead of ‘get’ sound more formal and colder. They’re also spending more energy choosing the correct word, when ‘get’ works easier and faster.

If ‘get’ can mean so many different things, how do we know the meaning the speaker intended? The first clue is the type of word that follows ‘get’. Is it a thing, a place, or an adjective?

Get + adjective‘ means that ‘get’ has the meaning of ‘become’ in the sentence. So, when you ‘get frustrated‘, you become frustrated. When the prices ‘get more expensive‘, they become more expensive.

When ‘get‘ is combined with a place, it usually means go or arrive, so ‘get home’ means ‘arrive home’ and ‘get to the mall’ means go/arrive at the mall. That’s fairly straightforward, however, when ‘get’ is combined with a noun, it can mean so many different things. ‘I got a present‘ could mean that you received a present, or bought a present, or took a present, or fetched the present. English students might find this confusing as each of these actions are very specific in their language. Native English speakers are very comfortable with this ambiguity and derive the exact meaning of ‘get’ from the context.

Here are some more examples:

Expressions with Get + Adjective = become

Get angryMr. Smith never gets angry with customers.
Get darkShe always leaves school before it gets dark.
Get richHe promised to  get rich or die trying.
Get betterTheir son is sick, so they can’t go to Rome until he gets better.

Expressions with Get + to + Place = go, arrive

Get to the officeWhen he got to the office the meeting started.
Get to city – She got to Rome at 5:00.
Get homeWhat time did you get home last night?
Get thereWe’ll never get there if he doesn’t speed up.
* Note that ‘get’ doesn’t need ‘to’ when combined with ‘home’ or ‘there, here’

Expressions with Get + Noun = receive, obtain, take, buy, fetch

Get an e-mailgot an email from John last week.
Get a presentgot a present for Elsa at the mall.
Get an awardHe got an award for first prize.
Get a jobHe had to get a job to pay for school.

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