Why, oh why, do English speakers make simple vocabulary so much more difficult to learn than it needs to be? At some point someone decided that taking some prepositions and verbs, that mean one thing on their own would be a good idea to mean something different when you put them together in a short phrase. Lets talk about get phrasal verbs.
It’s like an ‘inside joke’, only people who have had the details explained to them get to understand. So today we have a lesson on get phrasal verbs, where we take time to explain what they mean, and how you might use them in everyday conversations.
Rather than give you a long list of get phrasal verbs, and ask you to read them, and you might well understand the individual words. However, you might not understand their meaning when used in regular English conversation. For example, get and into. “Get” means to come to have (something); receive. And “into” means to move inside (a container).
Now put “Get into” into a typical English conversation and you will find it being used to describe someone who is enjoying music. Logically a person cannot climb into some music, so there is a meaning here that is understood by English speakers that if it is not explained to you with examples, you just won’t understand by just reading the words written down.
Phrasal Getaways Gatwick Partway
Hi there, and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English.
Let’s do some work on vocabulary today. One of the things which is difficult about English is that there are a lot of words in the English language. English is one of the languages in the world which has the most words. But, as you know if you’ve heard me recommend the Adept English Most Common 500 English Words course, you’ll know that you don’t need all of them to start speaking English. In spoken English, we don’t use that many words. The longer, more complex or more formal words are what you need when you write English. We tend to use simpler forms when we speak.
Having said this, something that we use a lot when we speak, which can be confusing is phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are used a lot in conversation with family and friends, in informal language. And if you’re asking ‘But what is a phrasal verb?’, well, it’s a verb which is made up of a phrase – so that means ‘more than one word’. So usually a verb and a preposition make a phrasal verb. So examples would be ‘to break up’, ‘to get on’, ‘to talk over’, ‘to come along’. So usually the verb part of phrasal verbs is a really common verb. They’re verbs which are likely to be in the most common 500 words – in our course! So they’re ‘phrasal verbs’ because they also have a preposition. So prepositions are words like ‘up’, ‘on’, ‘over’ and ‘along’, and this changes the meaning of the verb. It makes the meaning more specific. So in effect, it’s like it’s a different verb, with a different meaning, when the preposition is stuck on the end. And these phrasal verbs are very common in conversation, much less common in written English. So learning these is much, much more useful to you than simply learning a list of prepositions or giving you the Top 50 Prepositions.
If you haven’t yet done our ‘Most Common 500 Words Course’, then you can buy this on our website. It actually only uses the 500 most common words, and it does of course include the list of common prepositions, but actually it’s covering more because certain verbs and prepositions can be used together to make different meanings, as here. So don’t underestimate how far listening to and understanding the articles in our 500 words course will take you. In English, knowing the most common 500 words really well will help you succeed in speaking English!
So how about today for this podcast, we choose a really common English verb and go through the meanings of that verb, when it’s used as a phrasal verb, when it’s got different prepositions attached to it, which change its meaning? So verbs plus prepositions examples. And what might be really useful, for each one I’ll give you an example of a more formal verb, which has the same meaning.
So let’s choose a really common verb in speech, the verb ‘to get’. That’s one you hear all the time in English conversation, but if you’re writing English, the verb ‘to get’ is often better replaced by a more formal verb. So I’ll give you examples of that too. So if we take the verb ‘to get’ - it means to acquire, to gain possession of something. You might say ‘Let’s go and get a coffee’. This could mean let’s go and buy one from Starbucks or Costa, or it could mean let’s go to the kitchen and make coffee. I might ‘get a dog’ - so that may mean I pay lots of money for a dog, or that my neighbour gives me a puppy, a young dog for free. ‘Get’ can also mean that you change your ‘state of being’ too. If you ‘get dressed’ - that means you put your clothes on, if you ‘get drunk’, you drink a lot of alcohol and if you ‘get mugged’, it means that someone has attacked you in the street and taken your money! So ‘get’ is used in place of passive voice sometimes. So lots of different uses of ‘get’, it’s a very, very commonly used.
So let’s go through some common phrasal verb usages of ‘to get’. Here’s a list. This isn’t all of them – but this is what we’ll cover today.
- To get along
- To get at
- To get away
- To get by
- To get into
- To get in
That’ll be enough for one podcast and we’ll cover the others another time.
So the verb ‘to get along with’, as in ‘Oh, I get along well with my auntie’. This means that you like each other and you’re on good terms, it’s friendly, your relationship is a good one. And if it’s at work, ‘to get along with someone’ means that you work well together. And of course, there’s the negative ‘I don’t get along with him, he’s really impatient’. So if you don’t ‘get along’ with someone, usually that means you don’t like them. So that’s ‘to get along with someone’.
But if you use the verb ‘to get at’ someone, then this means something entirely different. If you ‘get at’ someone, it means that you’re criticising them, you’re talking about the person in a negative way. You’re being critical. Another phrasal verb here, we might say ‘you’re having a go at someone’. You’re complaining to the person about what they’re like! So that’s ‘to get at someone’. Or sometimes people say ‘Oh, he’s out to get me’. That means the same thing – the ‘he’ in this sentence is looking for an opportunity to criticise me, or to do something bad or unfair to me. So that’s ‘to get at someone’ and to be ‘out to get someone’.
Another way to use ‘to get at’ - someone might say ‘What are you getting at? This means ‘What is your point? What is it that you are trying to say? What are you trying to imply here?’ ‘What are you getting at?’ means ‘What are you trying to say?’
If you use the verb ‘to get away’ - well, that could mean that you escape someone. It could be again you’re attacked on the street – it doesn’t happen very often, but it’s an example - but you ‘get away’, you escape before they can hurt you. Thieves, people who want to steal money say, from a bank – they would have a ‘get away car’ - so a car, probably stolen, in which they will make their escape once they’ve done the robbery. But also what ‘get away’ can mean is a different kind of escape. It can mean to go on holiday. You ‘get away’ for a relaxing weekend, or you ‘get away’ for a nice beach holiday. The meaning here is that your life is busy, stressful and what’s good for you is to ‘get away’ and do something different. It can even be used as a noun – holiday companies often talk about ‘getaways’. A weekend away, a short holiday can be referred to as a ‘getaway’. That’s all one word.
If you add another preposition onto ‘to get away’ and you say ‘to get away with’, that has a different meaning again. If you ‘get away with something’, it means that you’ve done something wrong, or you’ve made an error of judgement and you’ve not been punished for it, you’re not suffering the consequences. So you might say ‘Oh, he had a speeding ticket, but he got away without paying the fine’. Or you could say ‘He’s a bit cheeky, but he gets away with it, because he’s charming!’. Or even, something like ‘Her clothes come from charity shops, but she gets away with it, because she’s got good taste’. So ‘to get away with something’ means you avoid the penalty of it, you avoid the judgement associated with it.
A photograph of a mum pointing a finger at her child who is getting away with being naughty. Used as an example of the phrasal verb to get away with.
What about the phrasal verb ‘to get by’? Well, again a different meaning. We often talk about people who’re ‘just getting by’. That means people who don’t have much money, who just about manage, just about pay for things then have no money at the end of the month. They just ‘get by’. So a student on a maintenance loan at university, doesn’t have a lot of money. Each month, they can just about pay their rent and their food and they’re ‘just getting by’. So it’s got the implication of someone being poor, not having money.
What about if we say ‘to get into’? Well, it can have the obvious meaning of say ‘getting into your house’ or ‘getting into your car’. If you’ve lost your keys to your house, you might say ‘I have to find a way to get into my house. Maybe I’ll climb through the bathroom window’. Or you might worry about ‘getting your children into a particular school’, or ‘getting yourself into university’. But what ‘to get into’ can also mean is that you develop an interest in something. You might ‘get into Japanese animation’, or you might ‘get into visiting art galleries’. Or you might ‘get into’ a certain type of music. So ‘to get into something’ means ‘to become interested in it’. You form a habit around it. If you say ‘to get in’ though – that can sometimes mean ‘to arrive’. So you might be asked ‘Oh, what time did you get in last night?’ means ‘What time did you get back to the house after your night out, last night?’ Or even ‘What time did your flight get in at Gatwick yesterday?’ means ‘What time did your flight arrive?’
Can you see why phrasal verbs presents difficulties for English language learners? There are just so many variations on this one verb. But the meanings are well worth knowing, because every English speaking person uses these phrasal verbs all the time – and we all know exactly what they mean.
So there we are. We’ve got partway through the list of phrasal verbs using the verb ‘to get’. We’ve not done them all, but it’s much more useful to learn vocabulary this way than just giving you a list of prepositions, a preposition list or listing the types of prepositions. What you will find in our transcript of this podcast at adeptenglish.com however, is a list of English prepositions used with these phrasal verbs and their meanings! So that’s the ones we’ve covered so far. How about we continue with this in another podcast, so that it forms more of a complete English lesson? Look out for part two! So listen to this podcast a number of times, so that you’ve a better chance of remembering the meanings.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.