Get is one of the most frequently used verbs in the English language. To a native speaker, it’s flexible and easy to use, but to a learner of English it can be very confusing.

Here’s an overview of the most important uses:

1. Receive (bekommen, erhalten)

When something comes to you or is given to you. This is typically used with communication.

I got your email. Ich habe deine E-Mail bekommen.
I got lots of nice presents for my birthday. Ich habe viele schöne Geschenke zum Geburtstag bekommen.
I hope I will get an answer soon. Ich hoffe, ich bekomme bald eine Antwort.


2. Obtain, fetch (kriegen, holen, abholen)

When you do something or go somewhere for something you want/need.

I’m just going to get a coffee. Ich hole mir mal einen Kaffee.
I’ll get my boss. Ich hole meinen Chef.
Can you get me from the station? Kannst du mich vom Bahnhof abholen?


3. Become (werden)

When something changes from one state to another.

Shall we go inside? It’s getting cold. Wollen wir reingehen? Es wird kalt.
How did he get rich? Wie ist er reich geworden?
It’s getting better. Es wird besser.


4. Come (kommen, hinkommen, ankommen)

To talk about arriving at a destination.

How do I get there? Wie komme ich dahin?
When did you get home? Wann bist du nach Hause gekommen?
Call me when you get to the airport. Ruf mich an, wenn du am Flughafen ankommst.


5. In the passive (werden)

To talk about what is done to someone or something.

Cars get stolen here very often. Autos werden hier sehr oft gestohlen.
The thief will get caught by the police. Der Dieb wird von der Polizei festgenommen werden.
No windows got broken. Kein Fenster ist zerbrochen worden.


6. Understand (mitbekommen, verstehen, kapieren)

To talk about if something is clear to you.

I didn’t get what he said about tomorrow. Ich habe es nicht mitbekommen, was er über morgen gesagt hat.
Did you get the joke? Hast du den Witz verstanden?
I don’t get it! Ich kapiere es nicht!

Please remember that these are only a few ways that get can be used.

Here are some other important things to know:

‘Have got’=’Have’
In informal English, have got is often used to mean have in the UK:

I’ve got a dog
(I have a dog)
Ich habe einen Hund.
Have you got five minutes?
(Do you have five minutes?)
Hast du fünf Minuten Zeit?
I’ve got to work tomorrow.
(I have to work tomorrow.)
Ich muss morgen arbeiten.

Formal or Informal?
Although it’s useful, get is often considered informal and more formal synonyms (like receive or obtain) are usually preferred in formal situations. Here are some examples:

I received your letter yesterday. Ich habe gestern Ihren Brief erhalten.
You must obtain a licence first. Sie müssen zuerst eine Lizenz erhalten.
I didn’t really understand the first point. Ich habe den ersten Punkt nicht ganz verstanden.

‘Got’ or ‘Gotten’?
British English uses ‘got’ as the past participle (third form) of get, whereas American English uses ‘gotten’. Both British and American English use ‘got’ for the past simple (second form):

British English American English
get – got – got get – got – gotten

Multiple Uses
Remember that there are hundreds of phrasal verbs and idioms that include get, many of which have no literal translation. For example, to ‘get married’ is normally translated as ‘heiraten’:

We got married last year. Wir haben letztes Jahr geheiratet.
He always gets drunk on a Saturday night. Er betrinkt sich immer am Samstagabend.
Get well soon! Gute Besserung!

My quiz about ‘get’ has more examples. Click here to try it!

If you have any questions about this topic, please feel free to send me an email at philmarlowenglish@gmail.com

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