Introduction:

The verb 'to get' is one of the most frustrating verbs for people learning English to use. It is a verb which is commonly used and has lots of different meanings (it can be used with the meaning of 'to buy', 'to take' etc...).

Although it is possible to write or speak English without using 'to get' a lot, if you want to understand other people, it is necessary to know what these different meanings are.

In this first of two online exercises on the verb 'to get', we will look at some of the most important meanings of the verb 'to get' in English and when and how they should be used.

Click here to go to the next part of this exercise on using the verb 'to get'.


A verb with many meanings

'To get' is a replacing verb. It is a verb that replaces another verb in a sentence but keeps the original verb's meaning. For example with the verb 'to buy':

'I'm going to buy him a computer for Christmas.'

Can also be written,

'I'm going to get him a computer for Christmas.'

Even though the verbs are different, both of the verbs in the sentences have the same meaning, 'to buy'.

The same happens with this next verb, 'to receive':

'I received a computer for Christmas from my father.'

Can also be written,

'I got a computer for Christmas from my father.'

Again, the meaning of the verbs in the two sentences is actually the same, 'to receive'.

How to use 'to get'

There are two important things to remember when using 'to get':

1. It is informal: 'to get' is generally used in informal English. It is not commonly used in formal writing or speaking (e.g. in a presentation or in a report).

2. Context is king: Because 'to get' has so many different meanings, people are only able to understand which meaning of 'to get' is being used by the context of the sentence.

For example, in the below sentence, is the meaning of 'to get' either 'to buy' or 'to receive'?

'I got a computer for Christmas for my father.'

In this sentence because of 'for my father', it doesn't make sense that 'got' means 'received'. So, in the context of this sentence it must mean 'bought'.

But what about in the following sentence? Does 'got' in it mean 'received' or 'bought'?

'I got a computer at Christmas.'

It is impossible to know from just the sentence which it is, it could be both. So, it is very important when using 'to get' that the rest of the sentence or the context you say the sentence in confirms what meaning of 'to get' you are using. If not, people listening or reading will either be confused or misunderstand.

And as you will see in the below quiz, 'to get' has a lot more different meanings than just 'to buy' and 'to receive'. So the probability that somebody is confused or misunderstands what you are saying when you use the verb can be very high.

So now do the below quiz to make sure you are using 'to get' correctly when you write or speak in English.



Quiz: How to use the verb 'to get' in English part 1

In each of the following sentences the verb 'to get' has a different meaning. Choose the verb from sentence's selection box which 'to get' is replacing in the sentence. Use the context of the sentence to decide which verb is the correct one. Only use one verb once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. I get about $2000 a month from my job.
         

To earn:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to earn money' or 'to be paid' from a job. It is also possible to use 'to receive' in this context with a similar meaning. In Spanish: "ganar".

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To earn:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. He got angry when he heard about the news.
         

To become:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to become', which means that something or a situation is in the process of change/transition. For example, 'I'm getting/becoming tired'. This means the person who says it was a little tired before he said it and expects to be more tired after he has said it. With this meaning, both 'to become' and 'to get' are always followed by an adjective, e.g. 'it became hot' or 'I'm becoming hungry'. In Spanish: "enfadarse/enojarse".

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To become:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3. I don't get how the machine works.
         

To understand:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to understand'. 'to get' is only used with this meaning in very informal English. When using 'to get' to replace 'to understand', it must always be followed by an object ('I get it') or by an object phrase ('I don't get what you want'). 'to get' never replaces 'to understand' if it is not followed by an object, i.e. you can't use 'I get' to mean 'I understand'. In Spanish: "entender".

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To understand:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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4. Did you get the e-mail I sent you this morning?
         

To receive:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to receive' when talking about objects or information, e.g. 'I got the presents from my brother'. When using 'to get' to replace 'to receive', the context is very important because some people may think you mean 'to buy' and not 'to receive', e.g. 'I got the car last year'. In Spanish: "recibir".

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To receive:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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5. My manager got me to do the report, even though I didn't want to.
         

To order:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to order'. To use 'to get' with this meaning, you need to use the following structure: Pronoun or Name + to get + the person receiving the order + an infinitive (e.g. 'to do'), e.g. 'He got them to work late'. This can be easily confused with 'to persuade', so the context when using it is important. In Spanish: "ordenar".

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To order:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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6. At what time will you get to New York?
         

To arrive at:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get to' is used with the meaning of 'to arrive at' a place/location, e.g. 'I just got to the building'. When the verb is followed by the words 'home, there or here', 'to get' or 'to arrive' is used instead (without the preposition 'to' or 'at'), e.g. 'When did you get home' or 'I arrived there at 6pm'. 'to get' never replaces 'to arrive' if it is not followed by an object, i.e. you can't use 'I've got' to mean 'I've arrived'. In Spanish: "llegar a".

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To arrive at:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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7. It wasn't easy, but I finally got her to sign the contract.
         

To persuade:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to persuade' or 'to convince'. To use 'to get' with this meaning you need to use the following structure: Pronoun or Name + to get + the person being persuaded + an infinitive (e.g. 'to do') e.g. 'He got them to agree'. This can be easily confused with 'to order', so the context when using it is important. In Spanish: "convencer/persuadir".

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To persuade:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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8. I got 75% in my maths exam.
         

To obtain:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'obtain' or 'to achieve'. It is easy when using 'to get' with the meaning of 'to obtain' for some people to believe that you mean 'to receive'. For example, 'I got the day pass from company's reception'. In this case 'to get' can mean either of the two verbs. So, be sure to clarify from the context which you mean. In Spanish: "conseguir/obtener".

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To obtain:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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9. I would like to get her a watch for her birthday.
         

To buy:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to buy'. Remember, when using 'to get' to mean 'to buy', you need to make sure that the context helps the other people understand that you mean 'to buy'. It is common for people to think if the context isn't clear that you mean 'to receive' or even 'to obtain' instead, e.g. 'I got the computer from my uncle'. In Spanish: "comprar".

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To buy:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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10. Somebody is calling. Can you get the phone?
         

To answer:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is only used with the meaning of 'to answer/pick up' the phone when it is ringing or 'to answer/open' the door when somebody is knocking or pressing the door bell, e.g. 'can you get the door?'. 'to get' doesn't mean 'to answer' in any other context. In Spanish: "contestar/coger/abrir".

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To answer:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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11. I get the bus to work every morning.
         

To take:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to take/catch' or 'to travel' on public transport (trains, planes, taxis etc...). It is not used for non-public transport (cars, motorbikes etc...). In these cases you can't use either 'to get' or 'to take', but 'I drive my car' and 'I ride my bike' instead. In Spanish: "coger/tomar".

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To take:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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12. Sorry, it's noisy here. I didn't get what you said.
         

To hear:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to hear'. The verb 'to get' is only used with this meaning in situations where you are speaking to or listening to somebody live (e.g. in a conversation, meeting, classroom etc...) It is normally used in the negative, e.g. 'sorry, I didn't get that, can you repeat it?'. In Spanish: "oír".

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To hear:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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13. They got the new service contract.
         

To win:
(verb) In this sentence 'to get' is used with the meaning of 'to win' in a competition or in a bid for an external contract/project (but not for winning football matches, tennis matches and other sports). When using 'to get' to mean 'to win', it always needs to be followed by an object, e.g. 'He got second prize'. 'to get' never replaces 'to win' if it is not followed by an object, i.e. you can't use 'I got' to mean 'I won'. In Spanish: "ganar".

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To win:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.