I hope you are all doing OK. We are one week into the UK lockdown and things are silent in and around London. So if you are like us you will fill your time by listening to podcasts and today in our learn to speak English podcast we will talk about how to avoid sounding boring, or unimaginative.
Adults, especially parents, really don’t like repetition of words. You might have noticed that children love to say the same thing over and over, they are practising and still learning, but this behaviour annoys us because we understood what they were talking about the first time around.
“Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet?…” Sound familiar? Yes, it is a classic conversation in a car journey with any child, but you can also fall into the same mistake, as an adult, when you are communicating in English.
But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.
⭐ D. H. Lawrence, English Writer
So today we explain the problem of overused verbs and how you might use an alternative vocabulary to remedy the problem.
Takeaway Wakened Phrasal Unimaginative
|To Get On||10|
|In Spoken English||6|
|Takeaway For Us||5|
|And I Get||4|
|I Get Up||4|
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Today I’m going to talk about a verb in English that’s overused. When I was at school and we were taught English, I remember being told “Don’t use this verb in your writing! And minimise its use when you speak, if you want to sound intelligent!” And that verb is ‘to get’.
Now if you have enough knowledge of English to be able to understand this podcast, then you’ll perhaps already be aware of the many uses of the verb ‘to get’. If you use ‘get’ all the time, it sounds rather unimaginative, not very exciting use of English language. Unimaginative? Well, if you’re the opposite, if you’re imaginative, that’s an adjective I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-V-E. And it means that you have a good imagination, you are a creative thinker, you hold people’s attention with your ideas. So if something or someone is ‘unimaginative’ then it isn’t creative, it doesn’t hold your attention and it risks being boring. So overusing the verb ‘to get’ is bad style in written English. In spoken English, you can use it more. But you’ll sound much better if you don’t overuse get, as I’m about to show you. ‘To get’ is used a lot also as a phrasal verb – which we’ve covered previously in other podcasts.
So here’s a passage in English, which uses the verb ‘to get’ all the way through. When you listen to this, see if you can understand the meaning of all these different uses of the verb ‘to get’. Then when you’ve done that, why not listen again and as you listen, try to think of more interesting alternatives. What else could you use in the place of each ‘get’? Each time ‘get’ appears, on its own, in this passage – it’s not that it’s incorrect. It’s just the repetition – it doesn’t sound good. So think of what verbs you would use instead. So here’s the passage with lots of uses of ‘get’.
I get wakened by the birds singing in the trees outside my window. I get up, get a shower, get dressed. And I can get quite annoyed with the radio, if the news is on loud. I get my breakfast – usually cornflakes or toast. I prefer to get a coffee on my way to work. I usually get the bus, but sometimes there’s not enough room to get on, so I sometimes get to work late. When I get to work, my boss is usually already there. I like to get straight down to my work.
A photograph of a house surrounded by trees, used to help visualise an overused English verb to get
My boss is good fun, but she works hard and I get on well with her. If you want to get on, in my company, you must work hard. I got a large bonus last year and there’s the promise that I’ll get promoted soon too.
Sometimes, if we have to work late, the boss gets takeaway for us. And sometimes she takes us out to dinner – and she’ll always get the bill. When I get home at night, I’m usually really tired. I get sleepy watching TV, so I tend to get to bed at a reasonable time, ready for the next day.
So let’s look at which uses of ‘get’ have alternatives here. What else could you use? So the first sentence, ‘I get wakened by the birds singing. Here instead you could say ‘I am wakened by the birds singing’. Or ‘I wake up, because the birds are singing’ or ‘the birds wake me up with their singing’. The next one ‘I get up’ – this one is hard to replace. ‘I get up’ – that’s just what we say. In place of ‘I get a shower’, you could say ‘I have a shower’ or simply ‘I shower’. And then ‘I get dressed’ - that’s another one that’s hard to replace in spoken English. It’s hard to think of another way to say that. ‘I put on my clothes’ perhaps would be OK. Then ‘I can get quite annoyed with the radio’. This kind of ‘get’ where it’s used with an adjective - it means I become annoyed. I start to be annoyed. But in conversation, you would say ‘get’ here - ‘I get annoyed’ or ‘I get frustrated’.
Next comes ‘I get breakfast’ – we might say ‘I eat my breakfast’ or ‘I have my breakfast’. But ‘to get a coffee’ on the way to work – again it’s hard to think of saying that a different way. ‘Get’ there means ‘I go and buy a coffee and I drink It’. It’s all in the word ‘get’. ‘I get the bus’ – it works with any public transport – ‘I get the bus’, ‘I get the train’, ‘I get the tram’. You could say ‘I catch the bus’ or ‘I catch the train’. It sounds as though you’re catching a fish, but that is what we use.
‘Sometimes there’s not enough room to get on’ – so ‘to get on’ in this context, is a phrasal verb meaning to ‘board the bus’, ‘to get onto the bus’, ‘to climb into the bus’. ‘So sometimes I get to work late’ – you could say ‘so sometimes I arrive at work late’. And another phrasal verb ‘I like to get straight down to work’. So ‘to get straight down to’ something – means that you don’t delay, you don’t mess about – you’re working right away.
It continues ‘My boss is good fun, but she works hard and I get on well with her.’ So ‘to get on with someone’ or ‘to get on well with someone’ - we use that a lot. And it’s again hard to think of another way of saying this quickly in spoken English. If you were writing it more formally you might write ‘We have a good relationship’ or ‘we are friendly’ or ‘we like each other’. ‘If you want to get on in my company’. Here ‘to get on’ means to succeed, to have success, to go forward in your career. So two different meanings of ‘to get on’ in the same sentence. ‘I’ll get promoted’ is just a more usual way of saying ‘I’ll be promoted’ – using ‘get’ here emphasises that someone else is ‘doing it to you’.
It continues ‘Sometimes the boss gets takeaway for us’ – so this means that the boss orders takeaway for us or buys takeaway for us. It means the boss pays. ‘She’ll always get the bill’ – this means that the boss ‘always pays the bill’ at the restaurant, she always pays for the meal. Then the next sentence ‘when I get home’. Again here, in written English, you might write ‘When I arrive home’, but ‘when I get home’ is what you’d say in spoken English. ‘I get sleepy watching TV’ – so again, this ‘get’ is like the one used with ‘annoyed’. ‘Sleepy’ is another adjective – and ‘I get sleepy’ just means ‘I become sleepy’. ‘So I tend to get to bed at a reasonable time’ – equally good in spoken English to say ‘I tend to go to bed’. That’s the norm, I think – that’s what we usually say.
So how about before we finish, I take that passage – that example again and replace some of the ‘gets’, the uses of the verb ‘to get’, with other words, and I’ll leave some of them in, so that it sounds natural – and where we use them most. Here goes:-
I‘m wakened by the birds singing in the trees outside my window. I get up, have a shower, get dressed. I can get quite annoyed with the radio, if the news is on loud. I have my breakfast – usually cornflakes or toast. I prefer to get a coffee on my way to work. I usually catch the bus, but sometimes there’s not enough room to get on, so I sometimes arrive at work late. But when I get to work, my boss is usually already there. I like to get straight down to work.
My boss is good fun, but she works hard and I get on well with her. If you want to succeed in my company, you must work hard. I earned a large bonus last year and there’s the promise that I’ll be promoted soon too.
Sometimes if we have to work late, the boss orders takeaway for us. And sometimes she takes us out to dinner – and she’ll always pay the bill. When I get home at night, I’m usually really tired. I’ll be sleepy watching TV, so I tend to go to bed at a reasonable time, ready for the next day.
So you can see there, that I’ve replaced some of the uses of the verb ‘to get’ with other verbs. And it sounds much better. So if you want to sound better in spoken English, perhaps for something like an exam, or a job interview, then listen to this podcast a number of times. Learn some of the different uses of the verb ‘to get’, but also learn what verbs you can replace ‘to get’ with, so that you’ve got some variety when you speak English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.