So, Alice, what did you do last night?
Well, I was at home, getting ready to go to the
movies. I was getting my shoes on when I got a feeling that something strange
was going to happen.
I've gotten those feelings, too.
Then, I left the house, and got a cab, and got
to the movies as fast as I could.
Did you get there on time?
Yes! But as soon as I got into the theater, I
got a phone call from someone whose voice I didn’t recognize. That’s when
things started to get weird…
Did you notice anything unusual in this story? The verb get
is used 10 times -- and with several different meanings.
Get is one of the most commonly
used, most tricky, and sometimes most hated words for English learners. When
learning this verb, it is best to keep a sense of humor.
That is because the verb has more than 50 uses, such as when it
appears as part of at least 12 phrasal verbs or other expressions.
Today on Everyday Grammar, we explore this simple three-letter word with
many meanings. But don’t worry. By the time you come to the end of the program,
we hope you will begin to enjoy this captivating and changeable verb.
We will consider a few of the most common meanings of get and offer
some ideas on how to use the verb.
Let’s start with a very common meaning of get, which is to receive, obtain,
or buy. The structure is:
get + direct object
Listening or reading for clues and then recognizing the meaning from
those clues is the best way of explaining this meaning.
For example, take the following sentence:
I got an email from my
In this sentence, does ‘got’ mean received, obtained, or bought?
Here, the word got means received. We know that the person did not buy
the email. We also know that they did not obtain it, since obtain
means to acquire by effort.
Let’s try another sentence:
I just got a new sofa!
In this example, does got mean received, obtained, or bought? It
probably means bought, since the speaker does not provide any evidence
that it was received.
But, in this statement, whether the speaker bought the sofa or obtained
it in some other way is not very important. The most important thing to know
here is that the speaker did not receive the sofa – they obtained it in
Now, let’s turn to a different meaning of get. This one means to
bring or fetch. The structure is:
get + direct object
Listen to this example:
I’m going outside to get
Sometimes, however, the structure can be:
get + indirect object + direct
Listen to the example:
Could you get me my phone?
It’s in the bedroom upstairs.
In this sentence, the direct object is my phone and the indirect
object is me. This is a structure you can use to ask someone to bring
something to you. You would probably not use it unless the thing were fairly
close. For example, if you left your mobile phone at a friend’s house, and you
will see the friend tomorrow, you would not say:
Could you get me my phone
Instead, you would say:
Could you bring me my phone
Now, you try it. Ask someone to bring something nearby to you.
Our next meaning of get is to arrive somewhere. There are two
structures here. The first is:
get + location adverb
The second is:
get + to + location
Listen to a few examples:
What time will you get here?
I got to Tokyo at 6
I got to the concert
In these examples, the clue to the meaning of get is the name of a
place right after the verb, such as “Tokyo,” “the movies,” “here” or “there.”
Our last meaning of get on today’s program is to become. The
get + adjective
Listen to a few examples:
The food is getting cold.
I get nervous when I
have to speak in public.
In this use, the verb get simply replaces the verb become.
You will recognize this easily when you hear or see an adjective immediately
Here are three suggestions to help you better understand and use the
meanings of get:
Tip #1: Guess the meaning from clues
Guessing can be your
best friend when trying to understand and use the meanings of get. Use
context clues to help you know how get is used. Context means
words that are used with or next to a specific word or expression that helps
explain its meaning.
Look for a direct object or a location adverb or an adjective before or
after the verb get. These will help you to know its intended meaning.
Tip #2: Practice, practice, practice
Read and listen to as much as you can in English. The more you do this, the
more easily you will be able to use clues as a tool to quickly understand
meaning. Americans, the British, and other native English speakers can
recognize these clues very quickly. You can learn to do this, too! Try to immerse
yourself in English by listening to Learning English podcasts, watching movies
and YouTube videos, and listening to music.
Tip #3: Use
If you are not sure how to use some of the meanings of get, you can
instead use verbs with similar meanings. Sometimes the other verbs sound
natural, and other times they sound formal. For example, you can say, “I just bought
a new sofa!” and it sounds perfectly natural. By comparison, saying, “I arrived
home at 10 pm” sounds very official. Yet, both are correct and can be used.
Orin Hargraves is a lexicographer. He writes and studies dictionaries.
Hargraves recently told Everyday Grammar that, “Many of the jobs that we
currently give to get…can also be expressed by other verbs.” Hargraves’
advice is good advice.
The Everyday Grammar team hopes you enjoyed learning a few of the many
meanings of the verb get. So, get going and enjoy this wonderful
verb. We've got to go now. But keep listening in the coming weeks for
more words with many meanings.
I’m Phil Dierking.
I'm Jill Robbins.
And I'm Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this story for Everyday
Grammar. George Grow was the editor.
Have you noticed how often get is used in popular movies and music? Try to find an example and then
write to us in the comments section. We want to hear from you.
Words in This Story
verb - n.
a word that is usually one of the main parts of a sentence and that expresses
an action, an occurrence, or a state of being
phrasal verb - n.
a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a
preposition, an adverb, or both
obtain - v.
to gain or get, usually by effort
acquire - v.
to come to own something
fetch - v.
to go after and bring back someone or something
clue - n.
something that helps a person find something, understand something, or solve a
mystery or puzzle
intend - v.
to have something in your mind as a purpose or goal
guess - v.
to form an opinion or give an answer about something when you do not know much
or anything about it
sofa - n.
a long and comfortable piece of furniture on which a person can sit or lie down
immerse - v.
to put (something) in a liquid so that all parts are completely covered