One of the challenges of learning to speak English is that native English speakers use short English phrases which often have multiple meanings. The confusion arises when you take some prepositions and verbs, that mean one thing on their own and another when used together.
Rather than try to map out all the possible combinations, and learn a long list of get prepositions and verbs, we’ve taken some time over a few podcasts,
to pick out the ones you are most likely to encounter and we explain each one, with examples.
You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.
⭐ Ernest Hemingway
Today’s English lesson we continue to unravel the possible uses of get phrasal verbs. We take time to explain what they mean, and how you might use them in everyday conversations. You can find the original lesson (part one) to this lesson here. It’s not critical that you start with that lesson, but if you listen to them both you will have covered all the typical uses of get phrasal verbs.
Phrasal Disembark Piccadilly
|To Get On With||9|
|Get On With My||5|
|I Want To Get||5|
|To Get Off Can||4|
|Get On With Someone||4|
Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you’re learning how to speak English, you’re in the right place with Adept English. If you’re wondering how to learn English speaking at home, we’re here to help with that.
Well, a while ago I did a podcast on what we call ‘phrasal verbs’ – that’s P-H-R-A-S-A-L – and it means verbs which use a phrase, are part of a phrase. They’re verbs which form a phrase, often with a preposition. An example would be ‘to get away’ which can mean that you ‘escape’ from someone or from some place, or it can mean to ‘go on holiday’.
These phrasal verbs are very common in spoken English – we use them all the time. Usually there’s a more formal word with the same meaning, and we use that, if we’re speaking formally or writing it down. But in conversation and spoken English, especially informally, we use phrasal verbs a lot. So phrasal verbs often are made up of a really common verb and a preposition. So in the podcast a little while ago, I covered phrasal verbs using the verb ‘to get’.
And I covered the following:-
- To get along
- To get at
- To get away
- To get by
- To get into
- To get in
Now test yourself! Do you know the meaning of each of those verbs, those phrasal verbs? If not, or if you’re interested anyway in our previous podcast, it’s episode number 282. So you can listen to that one if you’d like to understand better the phrasal verbs I’ve just listed. So how about we cover a couple more phrasal verb uses of the verb to get? They’re just so common. We use them all the time! So today, I’m just going to talk about two, because they have quite a few meanings, a few different meanings. So today I’m going to talk about the phrasal verbs ‘to get off’ and ‘to get on’.
So ‘to get off’ is a frequently used phrasal verb. And it’s got several meanings, but it will be clear mostly from the context which one is meant. So first of all, if you’re on the bus or the train, you would ‘get off’ at a particular place – a particular station or bus stop. So ‘he got off the bus at his stop’ or ‘we got off the train at Waterloo’.
The formal verb which means the same might be ‘to alight’, A-L-I-G-H-T but no one would ever use that in conversation! You do see signs as you arrive into Waterloo Station in London saying ‘Do not alight here’, meaning don’t get off the train there. But anyone speaking would say ‘get off’. Another more formal word might be ‘to disembark’ - but ‘to disembark’ is more usual if you’re ‘getting off’ a ship. So notice that you will ‘get off’ the bus, or the tram, you’ll ‘get off a coach or a train, you’ll even get off a bike, but you’ll ‘get out of’ a car.
But ‘to get off’ means other things too. If someone is talking about their sleep – what time they went to sleep last night – that’s S-L-E-E-P, especially if it was difficult, they might say ‘Oh I got off to sleep around midnight’. Or perhaps ‘I just couldn’t get off – noises in the street kept waking me up’. So ‘to get off’ can be short for ‘to get off to sleep’.
A photograph of a baby who is about to get off to sleep, thank goodness.
Another meaning – ‘to get off on something’. Two prepositions - that’s confusing, isn’t it? If someone ‘gets off on something’, it means that the person is getting some pleasure, some excitement perhaps, in a rather secretive, perhaps deceitful way. The meaning here is often that they’re ‘getting off on something’, they’re getting pleasure out of something that shouldn’t really be giving them pleasure. So you might talk about your boss in work, enjoying control over his staff, the people who work for him.
The boss might be more controlling than he needs to be – and people might then say of him ‘Oh, he gets off on it’ meaning he takes pleasure in his control. It’s unnecessary, but he enjoys it. The meaning can also be sexual – ‘getting off on something’ can mean that the person is taking sexual pleasure – again with the implication that it’s not quite what you’d expect, or not something they should be doing.
Another time when you might hear ‘to get off’ – if you’ve got two children playing together. And it’s getting a bit rough, a bit heated, sometimes as happens when children are tired, or too excited or it’s the end of the day. So what was fun a few moments ago, suddenly isn’t fun any more. So one of the children might shout ‘Get off me!’.
This means ‘Stop doing what you’re doing, stop touching me, take your hands off me. Leave me alone!’ Similarly, if you were attacked in the street by someone, you might shout ‘Get off!’ or ‘Get off me!’ It means ‘Take your hands off me. I don’t want this!’. You might hear someone say ‘Get off the grass’, if you’re standing on their lawn. Or ‘Tell your dog to get off!’. That again means stop your dog touching me, coming near me.
And yet another meaning of ‘to get off’, again which should be obvious from the context. ‘To get off’ can be used when someone goes to court. Perhaps they’re accused of stealing or they’ve done something else which is against the law, illegal. The court, C-O-U-R-T, meets and ‘hears the case’ and decides the outcome, which is called ‘the verdict’, V-E-R-D-I-C-T.
It’s a legal process. Is the person ‘guilty’ G-U-I-L-T-Y meaning they did the wrong thing or ‘not guilty’, meaning there’s not enough evidence or that they didn’t do it. So the verb ‘to acquit’, A-C-Q-U-I-T means that the person accused is found ‘not guilty’, they’re not going to be punished for it.
But, if we’re talking informally about that instead of ‘being acquitted’, we might say they ‘got off’. They were found ‘not guilty’. They ‘got off’ means that they avoided being punished. And if we say that someone ‘got off’, it implies that we think they are guilty and that they should have been punished. We might also talk about someone ‘getting off lightly’.
That means we think that the punishment they got wasn’t enough. If a child set fire to their school and they were punished by having to do extra homework – that would be ‘getting off too lightly’. It’s not a big enough punishment for the bad thing they did.
Just pausing there a minute to talk about one of our courses. If you like our Adept English podcasts, then why not buy an English language course from us? Visit our website and have a look at our Course One, Activate your Listening. This course provides lots of English listening material and will give you lots of vocabulary for common topics and teach you how to speak English well.
It also includes conversation between two people, so that you can practise listening to other English speakers as well as me. Course One, Activate your Listening is a ‘Listen and Learn’ course, just like the podcasts. How to learn English quickly? Or more quickly – through listening. That’s the best way.
Back to the phrasal verb ‘to get off’. ‘To get off’ can also mean that you are allowed to take holiday or to leave early. You might be asked ‘Do you get Christmas off or do you have to work?’. ‘Do you get Christmas off?’ means ‘Will your employer allow you to take holiday over Christmas?’ If someone says ‘Oh, I got off early this afternoon’ – it means that they were told that they could leave their work early. They didn’t have to work their full hours, they were allowed to leave early.
A child might come home and say ‘Uh, there was a flood at school and water everywhere. And so we got off early. We were allowed to come home’. And similar to this, you might say ‘to get off’ of a journey. If you’ve got a long drive ahead of you, you might say ‘I’m going to bed at 10o’clock. I want to get off early in the morning – I’ve got to get to Birmingham by midday’. Or someone might say ‘Oh, they packed the car – and they got off around 11 o’clock’.
And the second meaning that we’ll cover today is ‘to get on’. So again, this one has at least three meanings, all evident from context. Just as ‘to get off’ can mean ‘to get off the bus or train’, quite logically ‘to get on’ is what we use when we’re getting into the bus, we’re starting our journey.
So it can be used in the same way. So someone may be giving us directions and they say ‘You need to take the tube from Piccadilly – so get on at Piccadilly and get off at Green Park’. So ‘to get on’ and ‘to get off’ - very common with public transport. You’ll hear that all the time.
What about ‘to get on with someone’? That really means the same as the earlier phrasal verb of ‘to get along with someone’. If you ‘get on’ with someone, it means that you like each other, you might think in the same way, you’re nice to each other and you have good conversation.
It’s someone who might become a friend. So ‘to get on with someone’ and ‘to get along with someone’ - they mean pretty much the same thing. You like each other. You have a good relationship. ‘I get on well with my sister, but I don’t get on with my brother’. ‘I get on with my mum, but I don’t get on with my dad’.
But if you said ‘I want to get on with cleaning this morning’ - here ‘to get on with’ means that you want to make progress with a task. ‘I want to get on with my History homework’, or ‘I want to get on with my Adept English learning’. So ‘to get on with’ something, usually means a task, ‘I want to make progress’. And it has a more general use too.
If you said ‘I want to get on in life’, that means that you have some ambition, some aspiration, you want to be successful. ‘She’s getting on well at school’ or ‘He’s getting on well in his job – he’ll be promoted soon’. That’s ‘getting on’. So someone who wants to ‘get on in life’ will work hard and move forward and make a good life for themselves and their families.
So OK, that covers ‘to get off’ and its many meanings and ‘to get on’. Don’t forget to listen to this podcast a number of times, so that you’re more likely to remember the different meanings of ‘to get off’ and ‘to get on’. We’re here for you, if you’re learning how to speak English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.