Get/Become

What’s the difference between get and become?

We use the verb get in spoken English, while become usually appears in more formal written contexts. Context aside, the two words have a similar meaning; they both mean to grow, change, develop or start to be. However, get also has several other meanings; it can mean receive, obtain, arrive, travel, start, or it can be part of a phrasal verb.

Read on for a comparison of get vs. become, as well as a list of the different meanings of the verb get. Once you’ve read through the explanations, put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

Get vs. Become

Get has many different meanings. Become means to grow, develop or start to be. We use get in informal spoken English and become in formal written English. We use the structure get/become + adjective or adverb to talk about a change from one state or situation to another.

get (informal, spoken) become (formal, written)
She got angry and yelled at the children. She became furious and scolded the children.
The weather gets warmer the further south you go. As we travelled south, the weather became increasingly warm.
They got tired after an hour or so of walking. He became weary from the long day of travel behind him.
  • We can use become + noun to talk about change or development but not get + noun.
Example:
In 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. (not: He got the 44th President …)

Grow, Turn

The verbs turn and grow can also indicate change. Use grow for change over a long time and turn for a faster development. Sometimes these words are interchangeable.

Example:
In Autumn, the leaves turn brown. (also: … the leaves go brown.)
It felt as if her hair had turned grey overnight. (also: her hair had gone gray …)
I want to grow old with you. (fixed expression)
The rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer. (also: the rich are getting/becoming richer …)

Info

Unlike other languages, we cannot use the verbs get or become to talk about age and birthdays. Instead, we use the verb turn.

Examples:
Layla is turning 30 next year. (not: Layla is getting 30 next year.)
He turned 22 on his last birthday. (not: He became 22 on his last birthday.)

Get with Other Meanings

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the other meanings of get. Given its many meanings, get is a very useful word to learn. We mostly use it in informal spoken English, while its equivalent verbs are reserved for formal written English. Please note that become is not possible in these examples.

get = acquire, offer, receive, etc.

We use get + noun/prounoun to mean acquire, obtain, collect or receive.

Example:
Rachel got a pony for her birthday. (get = receive)
Can I get you something to drink? (get = offer)
Michael has gone to get some milk. (get = collect)

get = arrive at, reach, travel by

We use get in connection with public transpot to mean travel by.

Example:
Justin gets the train to work every day. ↔ Justin travels to work by train.

We also use get to signify the end of a journey. In this sense, get means arrive at or reach.

Example:
They got tolate that morning. (get to = arrive at)
Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to the train station from here? (get to = reach)

Learn more ways to talk about public transport on our page about the verbs go/drive/take/ride.

get in phrasal verbs

Get is used with different particles such as up, out, off, by etc. to form phrasal verbs (verbs with two or more parts). Each phrasal verb has a different meaning.

Examples:
I speak enough French to get by when I visit France. (get by = manage)
Sarah doesn’t get on with her sister. (get on with = have a good relationship with)

See our list of phrasal verbs with get.

get with participles

Get is often combined with the different participle forms to create fixed expressions. For example:

  • When used with a past participle such as dressed, washed, married etc., get has a reflexive meaning; these are things that we do to ourselves.
    Example:
    He got washed quickly, then got dressed in the dark.
    He washed himself, then dressed himself.
  • Get + past participle can also be a passive structure. We use this when the subject of the sentence is unknown or unimportant.
    Example:
    People commit crimes and think that they will never get caught. (= … will never be caught)
    He got offered a new job, but said no. (= He was offered …)
  • In informal contexts, we can use get with the present participle (the -ing form) to mean start doing something.
    Examples:
    We should get going or we will miss the train.
    Come on, get moving!
  • Together with an infinitive with to, get means manage to or be allowed to.
    Examples:
    Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the elephants on the safari.
    As I child I never got to watch TV after school.

get + object + infinitive/participle

  • get + object + infinitive means to overcome a difficulty to make someone do something.
    Examples:
    The detective got the suspect to talk.
    The detective managed to persuade the suspect to talk.
    I can’t get my computer to work!
    I can’t make my computer work
  • get + object + present participle means to make someone start doing something.
    Examples:
    Once you get him talking about the weather he doesn’t stop.
    She’s very stylish, she got all the girls copying her clothes.
  • get + object + past participle means to finish something.
    Example:
    It took my brother four hours to get his homework done.