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What Does The Word “Get” Mean?

What Does the Word “Get” Mean?

“What does the word “get” mean?” We hear this question often from our English students because “get” is a word that drives them crazy. Americans say “get” all the time, but its translation is rarely the same. It seems to mean everything and nothing.

It is true that we use “get” to mean several different things, and therefore it can be confusing. So read on for a helpful primer on its various meanings:

1. To receive/acquire/buy

  • We get the newspaper everyday.”
  • “I got some new clothes at the mall today.”
  • She got a new camera for Christmas.”

2. To become

We use “get” to mean become with adjectives to indicate a change into a different state.

  • “He got annoyed when he had to wait an hour at the doctor’s office.
  • “It was cool in the morning, but got hot later in the day.”
  • “They got married last year.”
  • “I always get sick in the wintertime.”

3. To understand

  • I don’t get this math problem. It makes no sense.”
  • “That was a joke? I don’t get how it was funny.”
  • Thanks for explaining that. I get it now.”
  • Why do Americans smile all the time. I don’t get it.”

3. To arrive

  • “I get to work at 8:00 every day.”
  • “What time did you get home last night?”
  • “The party starts at 7:00, but we’ll get there later.”
  • “We got to Seattle without any problems.

Note: we usually say we “get to” a place, but “arrive at” a place. If either word comes before “home”, no preposition is needed.

4. To bring/retrieve

  • Can you get me the remote control?”
  • “I left my phone at Leo’s house. I have to go get it.”
  • Get that screwdriver so I can fix this.”

5. To persuade/induce

In this meaning, “get” is always followed by an object.

  • I finally got the kids to clean their rooms.”
  • “We got the car to start after jumping it three times.”
  • “She got her boss to look at her proposal.”

6. To answer

This is specific to the phone or the door.

  • “Someone just rang the doorbell, but I’m in my pajamas. Can you get it?”
  • Your phone is ringing. Do you want me to get it?

7. “Have/has” +”got” = “have/has”

Ok, this one gets a little confusing. When Americans say “have got“, it is not the present perfect tense. That would be “have gotten”. In American English, “have got” is another way of saying “have”. It is only used in the simple present tense.

  • I’ve got three motorcycles and I’m going to buy another one.”
  • “He’s got a bad cold but hopes to be back to work next week.


Got it? Have a look at the sentences below and see if you can replace “get” with a different word or words. Then scroll down for the answers.

  1. Question 36 on the test was confusing. Did you get it?
  2. My glasses are on the kitchen table. Could you get them for me?
  3. I always get sleepy after a big meal.
  4. Sarah is calling me again, but I’m not going to get it.
  5. I didn’t get your email. Are you sure you sent it?
  6. They’ve got five children already. Why are they having another?
  7. What time do you think you’ll get to my house.
  8. He got his new golf clubs at a shop downtown.
  9. We’ve got too much to do this weekend.
  10. Did you get that watch for your birthday?
  11. Could I get you to help me move this bookshelf?
  • understand
  • bring/retrieve
  • become
  • answer
  • receive
  • have
  • arrive (at)
  • bought
  • have
  • receive
  • persuade