Get Passives

Express circumstance or emotional response

Hit by a bird

 

 

 

Be-passive vs. Get-passive Summary

OBSERVATION

Get is sometimes used in place of be in a passive sentence.  Using a get-passive instead of a be-passive is considered to be informal usage. There are some instances when a be-passive and a get-passive are not interchangeable.

AN OBSERVATION

I was hit by a bird.  (objective, matter of fact)

A CHANGING STATE

I became upset.

ADVERB OF OPINION + OBSERVATION

Unfortunately, I was fouled by bird poop.

ACTION WITH REFLEXIVE VERB

I cleaned myself up

HAVE  / MAKE (CAUSATIVE)

I had the barber wash my hair(arranged a service)

EXPRESSES CIRCUMSTANCES

In speech, we use a get-passive to express small details about a particular situation that a be-passive cannot express. Below are a range of emotional responses, from  unintentional actions to planned and executed actions.

(1) ACCIDENTAL & UNEXPECTED

Man, I got hit!     "A pigeon got me!" (poop) 

(2) BECAME

I got upset(participle modifier / adj. –not a true passive) 

(3) GOOD / BAD LUCK

I got hit / hurt/ fouled "Poor me!"

(4) ARRANGE TO COMPLETE

I got myself cleaned up.   "I did it myself"

(5) ARRANGED FOR IT TO HAPPEN

I got my hair washed.   "I made it happen."

 

foul (v.) – soil, make dirty / fowl (n.) – any bird.

Related page Bare Infinitives  have & make

(Azar 11-7) (Huddleston 1440) (Merriam-Webster 477) (Swan 223.4-5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get– Passive

(1) Accidental and Unexpected

 

 

 

Be-passive vs. get-passive

OBSERVATION

We use a be-passives to state an observation, tell what happened. A by-phrase is optionally included.

UNINTENTIONAL

car accidentI was hit by a texting driver. 

I was hurt by the airbag.

I was thrown by the impact.

I was broad-sided by a driver. 

I was blamed for the accident. 

My car was damaged by her car. 

INTENTIONAL

The accident was recorded by a traffic camera.

The texting driver was issued a citation by a traffic officer.

SURPRISE / OBJECTION

We use use a get-passives to express the accidental, unexpected nature of what happened. The focus is on the "victim". A by-phrase is not normally included.

UNINTENTIONAL

driverI got hit!     "I am a victim!"

I got hurt / injured

I got cut off while making a turn.

I got bumped. (shot, chased, followed) 

I got blamed

My shirt got torn (lost, damaged, dirty) 

*INTENTIONAL

*The traffic accident got recorded

*The other driver got issued a citation.  

 

broad-side (v.) – hit the side of a vehicle

*get-passives are typically unintentional actions

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Passive / Get + Participle

(2) Become

Studious pigeon
 

 

Is it passive or a changing state?

A PASSIVE SENTENCE

Get before a past participle is often ambiguous as either a passive verb form or participial adjective.  It is hard to tell the difference, especially when no by-phrase is present.

PASSIVE / PAST PARTICIPLE VERB FORM

She was upset by her experience that morning.

She got upset. (no by-phrase)

She was frightened by swooping pigeons.

She got frightened. (no by-phrase)

 

A CHANGING STATE

Get means "become" before an adjective. You can test if a participle is an adjectival (1) by placing very before it; (2) by replacing got with seemed or became.

ADJECTIVE / MODIFIER

She got very upset with them.   (informal)

She [got, became, seemed] upset with them.

She got very frightened (informal)

She [got, became, seemed] frightened.

 

 

ambiguous (adj.) – can be understood in more than one way
swoop (v.) – sweep through the air, as a bird or a bat, especially down upon prey
poop (v.) – shit or defecate, expel waste from the body
very – a degree adverb can only modify an adjective
static verbs – be, seem, act, appear, become, etc.

past participle – the third form of the verb, often ending in  -ed, -en, -t

Also see Participial Modifiers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get-Passive

(3) Fortune or Fate

 

 

 

Intentional Process vs. Fortune or Fate

INTENTIONAL

A be-passive expresses intentional actions that require thought or deliberation.  That is, a committee considered the outcome, a process determined the outcome, laws (civil or social) set the outcome.

RECEIVED BY SELECTION PROCESS

committeeShe was selected/ chosen/ picked for the award. 

She was asked/ invited to make a speech.

She was taken/ sent to Hollywood.

She was accepted to into the Actors Guild!  

RECEIVED DUE PROCESS / LEGAL RIGHTS

She was caught / stopped / ticketed / cited.  intentional, done with thought

She was let go / was left out / he was sacked.

She was fired / expelled / jailed / imprisoned.

FORTUNE / FATE

A get-passive expresses good or bad fortune: the outcome is determined by chance or an unnamed source.  In most cases, the subject has some role or shares some responsibility for the matter. (informal)

GOOD LUCK / FORTUNE

actressShe got selected/ chosen/ picked

She got asked / invited to make a speech.  (What a surprise / honor.)

She got taken / sent to Hollywood. 

She got accepted to into the Actors Guild!  

BAD LUCK / FATE

She got caught / stopped / ticketed / cited. 

She got lost / left out.

She got fired / expelled / voted off.

 

due process (legal expression) – the applying of careful thought and consideration for justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get-Passive

(4) Arrange to Complete

 

 

 

 

Arrange Something vs Personal Readiness

PLAN & COMPLETED

In these examples, the activity is intentional.  We use a get-passive to say that we organized or arranged something ourselves.  The subject is often the agent of the activity or event as well. "We got engaged." [ourselves].

groom carrying brideThey got married(We arranged it)

They got engaged.

They got invited. (pulled strings or favors)

They got separated(arranged it with the lawyers)

They got divorced.

COMPLETE  BY  ONESELF

We also use a get-passive when we talk about personal routine tasks.  The subject is also the agent of the activity.   "I got dressed," is a reflexive-like sentence equivalent to "I dressed myself."

man brushing teethMike got dressed for work.  (He did it himself.)

He got showered / bathed.

He got washed/ shaved.

He got through/ done at 8 p.m.

He got prepared

 

get + participle – get going, get working, get moving, get cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get + Noun + Participle

(5) Do or Have Something Done  (causative)

 

 

 

 

Take action on something until completed

DO A JOB UNTIL COMPLETED

 We use get to say that we worked on something until it was done. The participle is more adjective than verb.  See Adj as Complements

wood chopperJohn got the wood chopped.

Then, he got the hedge trimmed.

Next, he got the weeds out of the yard.

Last, he got the dogs washed.

 

HAVE A SERVICE DO A JOB

We also use get to say that we have/had a service done or arranged to have something completed. Had can also be used.

man delivering boxesBill got the boxes delivered.

Then, he got the wheel replaced on his cart.

Next, he got the boxes recycled.

Last, he got the truck repaired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Passive

Properties

A broken windowTom got frightened
 

 

Be vs. Get Passive Properties

BE – PASSIVE

In passive sentences, the focus shifts to the person(s) or thing(s) affected by the action, the recipientThe agent is mentioned in a by-phrase if important to understanding the context.

INCLUDES AN OPTIONAL BY-PHRASE WITH THE AGENT

The window was broken by some kids who were playing ball.

The focus is on the window. The agent(s) or cause are optionally mentioned

INCLUDES INTENTIONAL OR ININTENTIONAL ACTION

The glass was shattered by a baseball. (unintentional)

The glass was shattered  to let out the smoke. (intentional)

MAY INCLUDE AN AMBIGUOUS PARTICIPLE

Tom was frightened by the sound of breaking glass. (clearly a verb)

Tom was frightened(verb or adjective?)  

Tom was very frightened(clearly an adjective)

STATES WHAT HAPPENED (NEUTRAL)

The kids were caught by Tom.

STATES WHAT HAPPENED (NEUTRAL) 

Tom was married  last year.  (factual statement)

Tom was dressed  *by himself,  by his mother,  by a designer. See By-phrases.

STATES WHAT HAPPENED (NEUTRAL)

The window was repaired.  a factual statemen

GET – PASSIVE

In get passive sentences, the focus is on the person(s) or thing(s) affected by the action. Get-passives typically express unintentional, unexpected completed actions. Their use is often considered informal.

RARELY INCLUDES A  BY-PHRASE

The window got broken

The focus is on the accidental breaking of the window..
It is a "blameless" statement. No one is responsible; it is "fate".

MAY INCLUDE UNINTENTIONAL,  UNEXPECTED ACTION

The glass got shatteredunintentional and unfortunate

*The glass got shattered to let out the smoke.  (intentional)

MAY INCLUDE AN AMBIGUOUS PARTICIPLE

Tom got frightened "became"  (frightened, worried, alarmed, carried away, frustrated)

Tom appeared frightened. (adj.)  See Become  (testing for adjective or verb)

MAY EXPRESS ADVERSE / BENEFICIAL EFFECT ON SUBJ

The kids got caught. (adverse)

Tom got asked to join the kids  in the ball game. (possibly beneficial) 

MAY EXPRESS ACTION WITH SUBJ AS AGENT  (REFLEXIVE)

Tom got married.   Tom had a role as the agent as well. He was part of the planning. (intentional)

Tom got dressed Tom got himself dressed.  / Tom dressed himself.  (intentional)

MAY EXPRESS CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP OF SUBJ TO ACTION 

I got the window repaired (subject caused action to be completed)

I got/ had the window repaired.      See Adjectives as Object Complements   

 

Related pages  Pop-Q "Got Cut"
*Yellow highlighted words are examples of awkward or incorrect usage.

ambiguous – unclear, can be understood in more than one way

See Participle Modifiers 1 -ed / -ing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Passives

By-Phrases

 

 

 

BE-PASSIVE

A by-phrase is optionally included with a be-passive  if it adds identifying, interesting or important information.  See By Phrases.

OPTIONALLY INCLUDED IF IMPORTANT

He was hit by another car (optional information)

He was caught  speeding by the highway patrol.

Jim and Rita were married by her father / a Justice of the Peace / their priest.

He was dressed.  ( ambiguous as passive or adjective)

He was dressed by Dior. (formal occasion)   See By-phrases.

GET-PASSIVE

The subject is the focus In a get-passive. A by-phrase is rarely added unless it adds to the unexpected or unfortunate/ fortunate nature of the action.

RARELY INCLUDED UNLESS EXCEPTIONAL INFORMATION

He got hit. 

He got hit by a train.  oh! 

He got caught speeding.

*He got caught speeding by the highway patrol.   (unremarkable

Jim and Rita got married.

Jim and Rita got married by the Dalai Lama.

He got dressed(Implies by himself.)

*He got dressed by his mother. 

 

*Yellow highlighting marks incorrect or not commonly used examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

If we can say, "He got married," why can't we say, "He got born"?

*Jason got born.

*Jason got spanked by the doctor to open his airway. 

 

*Our city got founded.  an intentional, not accidental action 
 

SOLUTION

Jason was born in 2007.  Change to a be-passive because a birth is intentional, expected, even if the conception was accidental "she got pregnant".

Jason was spanked by the doctor to open his airway.  intentional, expected

Jason's umbilical cord got/was wrapped around his neck.  (unintentional, accidental, unfortunate

Our city was founded in 1850.  (a deliberate, intentional act)

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

lightbulb for popquestion   Pop-Q  "Got cut"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Notes on Usage

Advanced

 

 

 

Double Meaning

UNINTENTIONAL
AN ADVERSE / UNFORTUNATE OCCURENCE

"I got divorced."   

"I'm sorry to hear that."

Jack got lost. 

"I hope he had a phone."

They got invited to her party.  

"That's unfortunate."

INTENTIONAL
AN ARRANGED EFFORT

"I got divorced."   

"Good job!"

"Jack got lost."   

"Good, he's free."

They got invited to her party

"How did they manage to do that?"

 

 

 

 

Be-Passive & Get-Passive Differences

BE PASSIVE

Be-passives can be used with verbs expressing cognition and other states of being. Be-passives are used for intentional, deliberate, planned actions, and statements of fact.

I was believed(known, taste, love, remember, weigh and other stative verbs)

I was known for my ability to make 20-minute brownies in 10 minutes.

Our house was built twenty years ago.  (a deliberate, intentional act)

Jason was born in 2007. (a deliberate, factual statement) 

GET PASSIVE

Get--passives are not used for intentional or deliberate actions.  (Except for

*I got believed.   a mental, cognitive state of being (not a dynamic verb) 

*I got known for   not normally used with cognitive states

*Our house got built twenty years ago. an intentional, not accidental action   (The sentence is possible in the context of a job organized and completed in spite of difficult circumstances.)  

*Jason got born an intentional, not accidental event (perhaps the conception was accidental)

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

Resources 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

A n Experience in San Francisco

Cable Car
 

 

Read the Context


Blog: January 24, 2012

I was going to meet my friend in downtown San Francisco. I don't know how it happened, but I ___ lost

I called my friend on my cell phone and was listening to his directions, when suddenly the connection  ___ lost, and I heard just the dial tone. I didn't know what to do, so I returned to my hotel.

Later that night, I received a call from my friend who told me that I ___ invited to go to a party at the Greek Embassy where he worked.

I told him I couldn't go because I ___ selected by my boss to give a presentation early in the morning, so I had a lot of work to do.

He assured me that we wouldn't be out too late, so I quickly ___ dressed and left the hotel.

Fortunately, I ___ given a map before I left the hotel.  I was planning my route as I was leaving the hotel, when I almost ___ hit by a taxi.

At the embassy, I had to go through a metal detector. I ___ stopped because I had keys in my pocket.

After I ___ cleared by the security guards, I went in and joined the party.

It was a fun party. I ___ introduced to a lot of very interesting, and talented people.

A beautiful, young woman was walking by me with a glass of wine in her hand. Suddenly, she tripped on the edge of the carpet and I ___ splashed with the red wine from her glass.

The woman ___ embarrassed and apologized to me.  I assured her it wasn't her fault.

I ___ cleaned up in the restroom and was able to wash off some of the wine and cover up the rest with my jacket.

Later, that night I ___ seated next to the same woman who had spilled her wine on me. We talked for a long time and had a great time.

Six months later, we ___ married.

dial tone – the initial buzz sound on a telephone that means you are not connected to any particular number

embarrassed (adj.) – cause someone to feel self-conscious, intense discomfort with oneself in front of others

get past ( phrasal verb) – go by; go around; not think about any longer

splash (v.) – cause water droplets to fly up in the air

 

 

 

 

Determine whether to use a be or get in the passive sentence. 

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your responses to the answers by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 1-15" button at the bottom.

 

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2.
 I didn't know what to do, so I returned to my hotel.

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A beautiful, young woman was walking by me with a glass of wine in her hand.

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