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shristy singh

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The different uses of ‘get’


For most English students, the verb ‘get’ can seem quite confusing. You can hear native speakers use it in almost every conversation. What does it mean? And why do you find it in so many different situations? Read on to find out and start to feel more confident using ‘get’.

‘Get’ – an introduction

The verb ‘get’ is well-known to most students of English because it has many different meanings and uses. Not only does it have a lot of meanings on its own but also several more when combined with a preposition or adverb to create phrasal verbs.

The best way to learn all the different meanings of ‘get’ is to do so gradually during a course. This lets you become familiar with the various uses one by one.

The aim of this guide is to give you a general understanding of ‘get’ and help you be more prepared when you learn a new use of the verb.

What can ‘get’ mean?

The most common meanings of ‘get’ are the following:

1. Obtain

I need to get some files from the archives.

Can you get some paper from the cupboard?

2. Take

She gets the train to work every day.

We can get a cab back to the hotel.

3. Receive

Did you get my email yesterday?

She got a beautiful necklace for her birthday.

4. Buy

We must get some milk. There isn’t any left.

Shall we get some fruit too?

5. Become

It’s getting colder. Put on your jacket.

You can get better at English by practicing.

6. Arrive

They left at 4:30 and got home at 5:30.

When do you think you’ll get here?

7. Understand

I didn’t get what he said. Did you?

He got the joke but I didn’t.

8. Make something happen

You should get your hair cut. It’s really long.

We’re getting the car checked before our holiday.

When and when not to use ‘get’

In most cases we can choose whether to use the traditional verb (as numbered above) or ‘get’ as an alternative. But native speakers tend to prefer using ‘get’ whenever possible, especially when speaking. So I recommend you start using it yourself so you’re prepared to understand it when you hear it.

When you write in a formal context, it’s better to avoid using ‘get’ because it sounds quite informal. In this case, use the more traditional verbs.

Common phrasal verbs with ‘get’

As well as ‘get’ having several meanings on its own, there are several phrasal verbs that use ‘get’. As you’ve probably already seen, a phrasal verb is a verb that has two or three words, based on a verb + a preposition or adverb.