Just get on with it! Phrasal verbs with ‘get’.

by Liz Walter
phrasal_verbs_get
My last blog about phrasal verbs attracted a lot of comments. Many of them were from people who find phrasal verbs difficult. One reason is that so many of them are formed with very common verbs such as get, give, set, or put.

I totally understand why this is a problem, and as I often say to my students, I do apologise for the English language! However, saying sorry won’t help, so here is the first in a series of blogs looking at phrasal verbs formed with common verbs, in this case get.

Firstly, it may sound obvious, but start by learning the most common phrasal verbs. A good place to begin is with a small learner’s dictionary. For example, the Cambridge Essential Dictionary, written for beginners, has only 9 phrasal verbs with get. In other words, the people who wrote that dictionary have already chosen the most useful ones for you.

Secondly, in many phrasal verbs with get, the main verb has a similar meaning, which is ‘to go somewhere, or move your body somewhere’. When the verb has this meaning, the particle (back, off, up, etc) has more or less its usual meaning.  Therefore, by learning only this single meaning, you will already be able to understand many phrasal verbs with get:

We got back from London last night. (= we returned)

I get up at 7 o’clock. (= move out of bed)

Don’t lie on the floor – get up! (= stand up)

I got off/on the bus in the city centre. (= leave/enter the bus)

Please stop the car – I want to get out. (= leave the car)

In the Essential dictionary, there are only three phrasal verbs with get that do not have this meaning, so the next step is to learn them:

  • If you get away with doing something bad (or not doing something you should do), nobody punishes you for it: He never does his homework. I don’t know how he gets away with it.
  • If two people get on or get on with each other, they like each other and are friends. This phrasal verb is used in British English, but not American English: Do you and your sister get on?
  • If you were ill or sad, but you get over it, you feel better: I had the flu, and it took weeks to get over it.

And finally, for anyone who noticed the title of this blog, get on with it is a rather rude way of telling someone that they should start doing something immediately!

19 thoughts on “Just get on with it! Phrasal verbs with ‘get’.

  1. Sergio Rodrigues

    Speaking of get on and get along, is it necessary to add well to say someone has a good relationship with somebody else? Ex: I get along/on (well) with my mother in law.Thanks

  2. To add a footnote from across the Atlantic, we Americans say “get along with” to describe a working relationship among people.

    At the same time, I should point out that Americans and Brits are pretty good at understanding each others’ idioms, especially in cosmopolitan cities like London and New York.So try your best English and it’s likely to work.

  3. Melinda Mei

    Hi, Thanks very much for this article. I would like to have your information about the difference between ‘get away with’ and ‘get out of’? As it seems both of them are with the same meaning of not being punished by people when someone did something bad. Thanks.

    1. Wall

      I don’t think so. #Melinda
      because, As I know, for me. the word of ” Get out of sth” is doing sth you shoud do and at the end ( finally ) you’re done! For the other word ” get away with” is not doing sth you shoud do and at the end ( finally ) you didn’t and you’re not being punshed by someone, in a manner of speaking you passed, right?
      In my opinion..

  4. Liz Walter

    Hi Melinda. Usually, we say ‘get out of’ to talk about someone who somehow manages not to do something they should do. For example: I should be at a meeting tomorrow, but I’m going to try to get out of it./It’s Fred’s turn to do the washing up – don’t let him get out of it!

    So it’s a bit different from ‘get away with’, which is used after someone has done something bad.

  5. Melinda Mei

    Dear Liz

    Yes, they are quite difference. I was confused. Thanks so much for explanation.

    May I have another question for you? What is the difference between “go to work” and “get to work”.
    Thanks again.

  6. Liz Walter

    The main difference is that we usually use ‘get to work’ to talk about *arriving* there: I get to work around 8am./It took me two hours to get to work this morning. We use ‘go to work’ more for talking about leaving the house or about the journey: What time do you go to work?/I go to work by bus.

  7. Pingback: Phrasal verbs | ELT Infodump

    1. Liz Walter

      Hi Rafael. That’s an idiom, not a phrasal verb, and it means something like ‘to experience what I’m experiencing’. So we can say, for example: ‘What would you do if you were in my shoes?’. For queries like this, it’s a good idea to look in the online dictionary on this site – there is a good entry for the idiom ‘be in sb’s shoes’ that will give you the information you need. Hope that helps!

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