I seem to have had a lot of questions lately about the very versatile verb get. It is one of the 100 commonest words in the English language, and one of the top 20 verbs. It has very diverse meanings, and is used in a variety of ways. Specialists will say that it is not usually good form to use get in writing, but it’s so useful that it is difficult to avoid.
Here is a summary of the main ways we use get.
1. Get + noun/pronoun
When get is followed by a noun or pronoun, it usually means something like receive, fetch, obtain, or catch…
I got a postcard from Darren yesterday.
Did you get some flour when you went to the supermarket?
Wrap up warmly so you don’t get a cold.
2. Get + adjective
When get is followed by an adjective, it usually means become…
I can’t climb those stairs so quickly these days – I must be getting old.
Turn that radiator on so you can get warm .
3. Get + preposition
When get is followed by a preposition, usually some kind of change or movement is implied…
What time do you usually get up in the morning?
Why don’t you get out of the house and get some fresh air?
4. Get + past participle
A. Get is often used for expressions where other European languages use reflexive verbs. We use this to talk about something we do to ourselves:
B. Get can also replace be in passive structures such as…
The thief got caught when he used a stolen credit card (= was caught).
I got invited to Terry’s wedding (= was invited).
C. When there is an object before the past participle it can mean to finish doing something…
It has been so humid lately that it takes days to get the washing dried.
Get your room tidied and we’ll go to the park.
D. We can use the same structure (get + object + past participle) to talk about arranging for something to be done by somebody else.
I must get my hair cut – it’s looking terrible.
Peter has gone to the garage to ask about getting the car fixed.
5. Other uses:
get + -ing usually has the meaning to start doing something:
You should get going otherwise you’ll miss your train. ( = you should leave now)
get + to + infinitive often has the meaning to persuade:
I can’t get my husband to agree on the colour of the carpet.
This little list doesn’t cover every use of get, but it’s enough to get you started. If you get stuck you could always get yourself a dictionary. Don’t get frustrated if you find it difficult to understand all the uses of get. It gets easier as you get used to the language. So, why don’t you get on with it?