Using Get in Idiomatic Speech

the use of get in idiomatic speech and in phrasal verbs

'Get' in idiomatic speech is not understood readily when it is followed by an object that you would acquire or before a destination and this is probably due to the more common uses of get to communicate an arrival and to talk about a purchase. These are very common activities. Remember that the idea behind idiomatic speech may be by using a phrasal verb which falls outside is classical usage or in the case of get, using it instead of using the verb ‘to buy’ or ‘to arrive’. Purchases are expressed by stating the object after get with an article in between and arriving can be expressed by using the preposition to after get followed by the place of arrival. So ‘I got a book’ refers to a book purchase and ‘I got to the station’ refers to having arrived there. Idiomatic speech does not necessitate a phrasal verb though as in 'I got that' which means I understood what you said and 'that' is a demonstrative.

There are idioms that do not have to use phrasal verbs followed by nouns or adjectives outside their classical usage. So I got green with envy is using the the color green outside its basic use. Envy has been associated to the color green as red is with anger, yellow with fear and white with shock. 'With' is the preposition of choice but it does not follow got directly as in 'he got to the station'. The 'get to' in the last sentence is a phrasal verb and not an idiom as it is made up of the verb and preposition only,

When get is placed in front of a past participle, it refers to that action in the past. So if 'you get tired', you are losing your energy reserve as opposed to 'he got tired', where the reference to the lost energy is in the past. In other word a person gets tired when they do not sleep is a statement that relates a present condition. If I were to say that I got tired because I stayed up late then I am referring to a past event since got is the past of get.

It helps to know the conditional forms of speech in some uses of get. Obviously one has to know that got is the past of get and that the idiom can be used with this verb in the present and past as it can be used with many other verbs both regular and irregular. The only difference is that get has a wider usage and is therefore more universal.

Simply said get is well understood as a means to describe a state of life although many people will use it and not be aware that this is how they have expressed themselves. So I get healthier when you exercise is a conditional statement again where becoming healthier is an outcome of the exercise and one can acquire health just as one can acquire a real object only health is abstract. If you get rich as a result of saving money the quality of accommodating wealth is also something you acquire. So get is not just used to describe how you move to a destination or to express what you purchased.

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Guimo Pantuhan
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Posted on Sep 18, 2011