Scientific English as a Foreign Language
Answers to Lesson of May 22, 1998
The Wondrous and Terrible Verb "to Get"

Wondrous because it is so has 63 different definitions! Terrible has 63 different definitions! The particular meaning is determined largely by context.

Please don't use it in your writing. It is a very informal word, appropriate for conversation and seminars but not for publications. Much better synonyms exist.

I shall provide the full set of definitions on this week's Scientific English web page. Here are a few synonyms just to *get* you started (from the Random House Dictionary):

Can you provide synonyms for "get" for the following sentences? (I think these are the most frequently used meanings.)

1). I forgot my pen. I'll go fetch one.
2). This problem is really hard. I don't understand it.
3). I received your letter.
4). I'm sorry I wasn't here yesterday. I caught a cold.
5). Last time I went skiing, I became really cold.

Got it?

For your reference purposes, here are the definitions from the Random House Unabridged CD-ROM Dictionary:

get v., got or ( Archaic ) gat; got or got•ten; get•ting, n.

— -v.t.
1. to receive or come to have possession, use, or enjoyment of: to get a birthday present; to get a pension.
2. to cause to be in one's possession or succeed in having available for one's use or enjoyment; obtain; acquire: to get a good price after bargaining; to get oil by drilling; to get information.
3. to go after, take hold of, and bring (something) for one's own or for another's purposes; fetch: Would y get the milk from the refrigerator for me?.
4. to cause or cause to become, to do, to move, etc., as specified; effect: to get one's hair cut; to get a person drunk; to get a fire to burn; to get a dog out of a room.
5. to communicate or establish communication with over a distance; reach: You can always get me by telephone. 6. to hear or hear clearly: I didn't get your last name.
7. to acquire a mental graspgrasp or command of; learn: to get a lesson.
8. to capture; seize: Get him before he escapes!.
9. to receive as a punishment or sentence: to get a spanking; to get 20 years in jail.
10. to prevail on; influence or persuade: We'll get him to go with us.
11. to prepare; make ready: to get dinner.
12. (esp. of animals) to beget.
13. Informal. to affect emotionally: Her pleas got me.
14. to hit, strike, or wound: The bullet got him in the leg.
15. Informal. to kill.
16. Informal. to take vengeance on: I'll get y yet!.
17. to catch or be afflicted with; come down with or suffer from: He got malaria while living in the tropics. She gets butterflies before every performance.
18. Informal. to puzzle; irritate; annoy: Their silly remarks get me.
19. Informal. to understand; comprehend: I don't get the joke. This report may be crystal-clear to a scientist, but I don't get it.

— -v.i.
20. to come to a specified place; arrive; reach: to get home late.
21. to succeed, become enabled, or be permitted: You get to meet a lot of interesting people.
22. to become or to cause oneself to become as specified; reach a certain condition: to get angry; to get sick.
23. (used as an auxiliary verb fol. by a past participle to form the passive) : to get married; to get elected; to get hit by a car.
24. to succeed in coming, going, arriving at, visiting, etc. (usually fol. by away, in, into, out, etc.) : I don't get into town very often.
25. to bear, endure, or survive (usually fol. by through or over ) : Can he get through another bad winter?.
26. to earn money; gain.
27. Informal. to leave promptly; scram: He told us to get.
28. to start or enter upon the action of (fol. by a present participle expressing action) : to get moving; Get rolling. 29. get about,a. to move about; be active: He gets about with difficulty since his illness. b. to become known; spread: It was supposed to be a secret, but somehow it got about. c. to be socially active: She's been getting about much more since her family moved to the city. Also, get around.
30. get across,a. to make or become understandable; communicate: to get a lesson across to students. b. to be convincing about; impress upon others: The fire chief got across forcefully the fact that turning in a false alarm is a serious offense.
31. get ahead, to be successful, as in business or society: She got ahead by sheer determination.
32. get ahead of,a. to move forward of, as in traveling: The taxi got ahead of her after the light changed. b. to surpass; outdo: He refused to let anyone get ahead of him in business.
33. get along,a. to go away; leave. b. See get on.
34. get around,a. to circumvent; outwit. b. to ingratiate oneself with (someone) through flattery or cajolery. c. to travel from place to place; circulate: I don't get around much anymore. d. See get about.
35. get at,a. to reach; touch: to stretch in order to get at a top shelf. b. to suggest, hint at, or imply; intimate: What are y getting at?. c. to discover; determine: to get at the root of a problem. d. Informal. to influence by surreptitious or illegal means; bribe: The gangsters couldn't get at the mayor.
36. get away,a. to escape; flee: He tried to get away, but the crowd was too dense. b. to start out; leave: The racehorses got away from the starting gate.
37. get away with, to perpetrate or accomplish without detection or punishment: Some people lie and cheat and always seem to get away with it.
38. get back,a. to come back; return: When will y get back?. b. to recover; regain: He got back his investment with interest. c. to be revenged: She waited for a chance to get back at her accuser.
39. get by, a. to succeed in going past: to get by a police barricade. b. to manage to exist, survive, continue in business, etc., in spite of difficulties. c. to evade the notice of: He doesn't let much get by him.
40. get down,a. to bring or come down; descend: The kitten climbed the tree, but then couldn't get down again. b. to concentrate; attend: to get down to the matter at hand. c. to depress; discourage; fatigue: Nothing gets me down so much as a rainy day. d. to swallow: The pill was so large that he couldn't get it down. e. to relax and enjoy oneself completely; be uninhibited in one's enjoyment: getting down with a bunch of old friends.
41. get even. See even 1 (def. 22).
42. get going,a. to begin; act: They wanted to get going on the construction of the house. b. to increase one's speed; make haste: If we don't get going, we'll never arrive in time.
43. get in,a. to go into a place; enter: He forgot his key and couldn't get in. b. to arrive; come: They both got in on the same train. c. to become associated with: He got in with a bad crowd. d. to be chosen or accepted, as for office, membership, etc.: As secretary of the club, his friend made sure that he got in. e. to become implicated in: By embezzling money to pay his gambling debts quickly, he was getting in further and further.
44. get it, Informala. to be punished or reprimanded: You'll get it for breaking that vase!. b. to understand or grasp something: This is just between us, get it?.
45. get it off, Slang (vulgar ) . to experience orgasm.
46. get it on,a. Informal. to work or perform with satisfying harmony or energy or develop a strong rapport, as in music: a rock group really getting it on with the audience. b. Slang (vulgar ) . to have sexual intercourse.
47. get it up, Slang (vulgar ) , to achieve an erection of the penis.
48. get off,a. to escape the consequences of or punishment for one's actions. b. to help (someone) escape punishment: A good lawyer might get y off. c. to begin a journey; leave: He got off on the noon flight. d. to leave (a train, plane, etc.) ; dismount from (a horse) ; alight. e. to tell (a joke) ; express (an opinion) : The comedian got off a couple of good ones. f. Informal. to have the effrontery: Where does he get off telling me how to behave?. g. Slang (vulgar ) . to experience orgasm. h. to experience or cause to experience a high from or as if from a drug. i. to cause to feel pleasure, enthusiasm, or excitement: a new rock group that gets everyone off.
49. get off on, Slang. to become enthusiastic about or excited by: After years of indifference, she's getting off on baseball.
50. get on or along,a. to make progress; proceed; advance. b. to have sufficient means to manage, survive, or fare. c. to be on good terms; agree: She simply can't get on with her brothers. d. to advance in age: He is getting on in years.
51. get out,a. to leave (often fol. by of ) : Get out of here! We had to get out of the bus at San Antonio. b. to become publicly known: We mustn't let this story get out. c. to withdraw or retire (often fol. by of ) : He decided to get out of the dry goods business. d. to produce or complete: Let's get this work out!.
52. get over,a. to recover from: to get over an illness. b. See get across.
53. get round. See get around.
54. get the lead out. See lead 2 (def. 11).
55. get there, to reach one's goal; succeed: He wanted to be a millionaire but he died before he got there.
56. get through,a. to succeed, as in meeting, reaching, or contacting by telephone (usually fol. by to ) : I tried to call y last night, but I couldn't get through. b. to complete; finish: How he ever got through college is a mystery. c. to make oneself understood: One simply cannot get through to her.
57. get to,a. to get in touch or into communication with; contact: It was too late by the time he got to the authorities. b. Informal. to make an impression on; affect: This music really gets to y. c. to begin: When he gets to telling stories about the war, there's no stopping him.
58. get together,a. to accumulate; gather: to get together a portfolio of 20 stocks. b. to congregate; meet: The alumnae chapter gets together twice a year. c. to come to an accord; agree: They simply couldn't get together on matters of policy.
59. get up,a. to sit up or stand; arise. b. to rise from bed. c. to ascend or mount. d. to prepare; arrange; organize: to get up an exhibit. e. to draw upon; marshal; rouse: to get up one's courage. f. to acquire a knowledge of. g. (to a horse) go! go ahead! go faster!. h. to dress, as in a costume or disguise: She got herself up as an astronaut. i. to produce in a specified style, as a book: It was got up in brown leather with gold endpapers.
60. has or have got,a. to possess or own; have: She's got a new car. Have y got the tickets?. b. must (fol. by an infinitive) : He's got to get to a doctor right away. c. to suffer from: Have y got a cold?

— -n.
61. an offspring or the total of the offspring, esp. of a male animal: the get of a stallion.
62. a return of a ball, as in tennis, that would normally have resulted in a point for the opponent.
63. Brit. Slang a. something earned, as salary, profits, etc.: What's your week's get?. b. a child born out of wedlock. [1150–1200; (v.) ME geten < ON geta to obtain, beget; c. OE -gietan (>ME yeten) , G -gessen, in vergessen to forget; (n.) ME: something gotten, offspring, deriv. of the v]

— get‚ta•ble, get‚a•ble, adj.

— Syn.1, 2. GET, OBTAIN, ACQUIRE, PROCURE, SECURE imply gaining possession of something. GET may apply to coming into possession in any manner, and either voluntarily or not. OBTAIN suggests putting forth effort to gain possession, and ACQUIRE stresses the possessing after an (often prolonged) effort. PROCURE suggests the method of obtaining, as that of search or choice. SECURE, considered in bad taste as a would-be-elegant substitute for GET, is, however, when used with discrimination, a perfectly proper word. It suggests making possession sure and safe, after obtaining something by competition or the like. 2. win, gain. 7. apprehend, grasp. 10. induce, dispose. 12. engender.

— Usage. For nearly 400 years, forms of GET have been used with a following past participle to form the passive voice: She got engaged when she was 19. He won't get accepted with those grades. This use of GET rather than of forms of to be in the passive is found today chiefly in speech and informal writing.In British English GOT is the regular past participle of GET, and GOTTEN survives only in a few set phrases, such as ill-gotten gains. In American English GOTTEN, although occasionally criticized, is an alternative standard past participle in most senses, especially in the senses "to receive" or "to acquire": I have gotten (or got ) all that I ever hoped for.HAVE or HAS GOT in the sense "must" has been in use since the early 19th century; often the HAVE or HAS is contracted: You've got to carry your passport at all times. The use of HAVE (or HAS) GOT in the sense of "to possess" goes back to the 15th century; it is also frequently contracted: She's got a master's degree in biology. These uses are occasionally criticized as redundant on the grounds that HAVE alone expresses the meaning adequately, but they are well established and fully standard in all varieties of speech and writing. In some contexts in American English, substituting GOTTEN for GOT produces a change in meaning: She's got (possesses ) a new job. She's gotten (has aquired ) a new job. He's got to (must ) attend the wedding. He's gotten to (has been allowed or enabled to ) attend. The children have got (are suffering from ) the measles. The children have gotten (have caught ) the measles. The use of GOT without HAVE or HAS to mean "must" (I got to buy a new suit ) is characteristic of the most relaxed, informal speech and does not occur in edited writing except in representations of speech. GOTTA is a pronunciation spelling representing this use.

— Pron. The pronunciation (git) for GET has existed since the 16th century. The same change is exhibited in (kin) for CAN and (yit) for YET. The pronunciation (git) is not regional and occurs in all parts of the country. It is most common as an unstressed syllable: Let's get going! (lets‚ git gˇ‚ing) . In educated speech the pronunciation (git) in stressed syllables is rare.

Thou seal on extinction,
Thou curse on Creation.
All change distributes energy,
Spills what cannot be gathered again.
The night sky blazes with Byzantine waste.

-from 'Ode to Entropy' by John Updike

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Created May 20, 1998, by Nancy Burnham and Fred Hutson.