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The verb "get" is the seventh (7th) most common verb in English, behind three auxiliary/lexical verbs (be, have, do) and one lexical verb (say), (but also behind two modal auxiliaries will & would). It is worth noting that the bare infinitive of "get" is now more frequent than the bare infinitive of "say". (The use of "get" has increased 450% from 1800 to 2011. Over the same period the frequency of "say" seems to have decreased.)

get vs. say

In general, a distinction needs to be made between two structures:

  • have got / has got (synonymous with the verb "have")
  • get (a dynamic "light" verb)

have got

possession, filiation, localisation

The present perfect form of the verb "get" --> have got, has got indicates possession, filiation, and localisation, in the same way as have / has without "got":

  1. I have got a new umbrella.
  2. I have got a husband/wife and two kids.
  3. I have got a headache/cold/problem. (etc.)

negation (^) and interrogation (?)

"have got" and "(do) have" function very differently because of the absence of an auxiliary verb when "have" is a lexical verb meaning "possess".

  1. Do you have a minute?
  2. I don't have time to finish this tonight.
  3. You have a minute, don't you?

In UK English: Questions and negations, like question tags, are formed with the auxiliary have/has:

  1. Have you got a minute?
  2. I haven't got time to finish this tonight.
  3. You've got a minute, haven't you?

In American English: In questions have / has is often omitted, including the auxiliary is also still correct. Negations require the auxiliary. The question tag is generally formed with "do" (at least in many dialects, though in Globisch this is generally considered an error (#3 below):

  1. You got a minute? // Have you got a minute?
  2. I haven't got time to finish this tonight.
  3. You've got a minute, don't you ?

present tense only

Unlike have, get is not generally used to express either future or past possession, filiation, or localisation.

  • I had (#/?got) a new umbrella, but I lost it.
  • I will have (got) a problem, if this continues.


have got to ([vgɔtə] | [zgɔtə],)  : modalisateur, modal verbal particle

indicates an obligation to V

possession + telic particle to (↦) = obligation is common (Cf. have to)

One of a group of verbal particles (gonna', hafta', wanna', oughta', needta') which complement the "properly" modal verbs (can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, must) .

Quick Examples :

  • I've got to go.
  • I've got to get this approved.

synonyms: need to // have to

As with the possessive, present tense only!

  • I had got to wait.
  • I (hafta', vgotta') wait.

Dynamic GET

punctual/ inceptive

"Get" marks the moment when a change of state takes place.

  • She got pregnant in May 2008 and gave birth in February 2009. (pregnant = ADJ)
    • NB. Dans ce cas, on ne peut pas dire: She got pregnant in 2009. On peut en revanche dire "She was pregnant in 2009."
  • I usually get to work before 9 and get home around 7.
  • We need to get the ball rolling.
  • Let's get started.
  • I usually get paid on the 6th.
  • She gets back late on Thursdays.

semantics: difficulty

It is perhaps due to the punctual/inceptive aspect of "get" that it is often associated with difficulty.

  • We got the project finished on time, but it wasn't easy!
  • It's hard to get it right all the time, but we do try.
  • She tried to get fired for several years, but as a civil servant that's not always easy to do.
  • I couldn't get through to the office all morning. (joindre)


Get, because it is a verb used when the grammatical subject is both SUBJECT and OBJECT of the action or predication, is often used with state changes and comparatives:

  • It's getting easier and easier to get lost in my mailbox. I need to delete some messages!
  • It's getting a bit harder to find a coin-operated public pay phone these days.
  • They're getting better at calling us back when we leave a message.


  • Maria only got 150€ back for her new glasses.
  • Maria was only reimbursed 150€ for her new glasses.

(The agent who did the reimbursing -- here the insurance company -- is not expressed. However, Maria's potential role in the reimbursement (letters, telephone calls) is emphasized with the verb "get".)


In media-passive sentences, get almost has the status of an auxiliary verb (like do, have, be). What prevents it from being classified as an auxiliary on distributional grounds is that it requires do-support for negative statements and questions.


  • Did it get fixed?
  • (Did you) get it fixed?


  • It didn't get fixed. (correct)
  • *It getn't fixed. (incorrect)


resume of main causatives in English

make SO/STH V,

  • I made them come. (I forced them to...):: syntax: I made them V
  • wrong: I made them fired. :: syntax error: I made them Ved

have SO/STH V/V-en,

  • I had them come. (because that's just part of my power... Bwahaha!)
  • I had them hired / fired.

get SO/STH to V get SO/STH V-en

  • I got them to come. (because I'm persuasive... re-bwahaha!)
  • I got them hired / fired.

ask SO to V (persuade, convince, force, etc.)

  • I asked them to come. (not a causative as such, because I'm not sure they're coming)
  • I asked for them to be hired / fired.

  • Get emphasizes both the difficulty and the exchange involved in imposing one's will on someone or something.


  • I finally got them to send me the bill.
  • It's hard to get landlords to refund a damage deposit.
  • It's not always easy to get the kids to put their toys away.



forget, forgot, forgotten (like American get, got, gotten)

French translation: oublier. For- is a privative prefix, like German ver-. It means: "away, opposite, completely".

To forget is to "unget;" it is the moment when you realize a memory -- a trace of acquisition -- has disappeared.

An interesting example from Middlesex: "When you got away from the quay you could almost forget that there was a crisis on."

get away from
s'éloigner, échapper
going / going on / en cours.


This verb is not used in the modern language, but is preserved in religious texts.

beget, begot, begotten (like American get, got, gotten)

French translation: engendrer. Most commonly encountered as an adjective: his only-begotten son. // Allah begets not, nor is he begotten. (active / passive voice)

The original meaning of the Old English prefix be-, is "on all sides" (de tous les côtés).

A comparison of the google ngram for "begotten son" and "begotten daughter" shows that this expression is clearly most often associated with a male child. Why? Why do you think that "begotten son" has been on the increase in the past decade? [1]