Get real

A very versatile verb that native English uses a great deal but is often forgotten about by non-natives: to get. Both transitive and intransitive usages are commonplace.

I suspect that there’s also a tendency to avoid it because people aren’t sure how colloquial the word is: the answer is that you might avoid it in contractual legalese or very formal reports, but elsewhere it’s fine. Here are a few common usages (of the dozens that the dictionaries list!) with examples plucked from my own previous posts for good measure:

  • to become, turn into, change
    Don’t get personal.

    …before it gets dark.
    …a meteorological website getting confused
    …without getting sidetracked
  • to obtain, acquire
    Getting the picture, not painting it.

    …getting Clare a beamer for Christmas
  • to happen, move, cause
    …able to get abroad after the lockdown
    …getting in the way
    …get rid of
  • to be given, receive, catch
    I also get the impression that Dutch writers avoid…
    get it wrong, get it right
  • passive voice auxiliary
    If the ozone layer didn’t exist, we’d get fried.

    …the same phrase tends to get repeated a lot
    …the two commonest often get mixed up

I can now see that I’ve used it at least once in nearly two thirds of all the posts! A prime example of an area where you will improve if you attempt to put the semantic content straight into English, rather than concentrating on the syntax of word-for-word.

Prevalence: endemic. Not top-of-mind for the majority of authors – understandably enough.
Frequency: very high. Will usually occur multiple times in a document, given what a common word “get” is.
Native: no. We have no difficulty with it (except for the US-UK issue of gottengot).

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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