Obtaining information and deriving satisfaction: 5 different ways of saying ‘get’

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

a person's hand reaching out to take one slice from a pie chart made up of five coloured segments: red, white, green, yellow and blue
John Scott / The Image Bank / GettyImages

by Liz Walter

One way to improve your English is to find more interesting vocabulary to use instead of very common words. This post looks at five verbs you can use instead of ‘get’. Regular readers of my posts will know that I often talk about collocation, or words that commonly go together. I’ll be focusing on this particularly today because although the words I’m covering are basically synonyms, some of them tend to collocate strongly with particular groups of nouns. Note that they are all a little more formal than ‘get’ but still commonly used, especially in writing.

The first verb I’m going to look at is obtain. This is used when a deliberate effort is made, for example by looking for or asking for something or working in order to produce something. Typical collocations are information, consent, permission, document, and result. We often use adverbs with this verb in order to show how things are obtained:

I obtained permission to use the images on my website.

The documents were obtained illegally.

The verb secure also implies an effort to make sure you get something. We often use it in contexts connected with business, law, or politics. It collocates strongly with nouns such as victory, loan, funding, deal, contract, nomination, release, and conviction:

A third goal secured the team’s victory.

Evidence from witnesses helped secure her conviction.

In general use, the verb acquire implies less deliberate effort than the previous two verbs. It collocates with words such as information, knowledge, skill, experience, and reputation. However, it is also used in business and legal contexts with collocations such as asset, land, shares, company, and stake. In this sense, it is very much deliberate and usually involves paying money to get something:

That job helped me acquire some IT skills.

They have recently acquired shares in a biotech company.

The verb sustain collocates very strongly with negative words, particularly injury, damage, and loss, or synonyms of these words such as fracture, wound, or concussion:

She fell down the steps and sustained two broken ribs.

The building sustained serious damage in the blast.

In contrast, derive tends to collocate with positive words such as satisfaction, pleasure, benefit, strength, power, income and revenue. It is also used to talk about things that are made from something:

He derives a lot of satisfaction from his work with children.

These substances are derived from natural ingredients.

There are of course many more synonyms of the word ‘get’, but I hope these five will cover a lot of useful contexts and help to make your English sound more impressive.

13 thoughts on “Obtaining information and deriving satisfaction: 5 different ways of saying ‘get’

  1. Frank Muscat

    Another synonym of get is elicit, which suggests that you get some information after delving deep into something. An example could be: The researcher elicited a number of themes from the data they had gathered from a number of interviews with the sample population.

  2. Dieter Walz

    Hi Liz,

    another wonderful post.
    It not only helps to enlarge every student’s vocabulary
    but also to enhance style and expression.
    Thanks for it.

    Dieter Walz, Frankfurt

  3. Very interesting observations about SUSTAIN and DERIVE.

    Had thought SUSTAIN would be a more positive word as we are using it to protect our natural and our human environments.

    and DERIVE comes so much from the world of mathematics and finance – the derivatives of our success and sustainability and survival.

    Aleov: I do agree with you there.

    At the same time there is a very good reason that GET is used a lot in the English language.

    Frank: thank you for reminding me and us of ELICIT.

    [people have to be careful not to confuse it with ILLICIT which happens all too often on senior secondary examination papers].

  4. And I just remembered another use of “get”

    In many sports we have ball gets

    [like rugby league and Australian rules and basketball]

    when the ball is passed or moved to your teammate or your opponent.

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