Get – Go – Turn – Become

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Get is a very common verb in English, but it is not always appropriate for talking about changes. Note also alternatives to get which can improve your style.

Go, not get

Go is used for changes in people’s personality, appearance and physical abilities: People go mad/bald/grey/blind/deaf.

Go is often used for sudden, usually negative, changes: He was very embarrassed and his face went red. Suddenly the sky went very dark and it started to rain.

Go can also be used for slower colour changes:

The pages of the book had gone yellow over the years.

Turn, not get

Turn often collocates with colours: The sky turned gold as the sun set.

When the tomatoes turn red, the farmers pick them and sell them.

The news gave his mother such a shock that her hair turned white overnight.

Get and become

Get and become can often be used with the same collocations, but become is more formal

and is therefore more appropriate in essays:

She gave up smoking when she became pregnant.

I would like to become involved in raising money for charity.

The same is true for collocations with adjectives such as angry, bored, excited, depressed,

upset, impatient, violent-.

He became depressed after his wife’s death.

Become, not get, is used with the following: extinct, (un)popular, homeless, famous. Our local baker’s has become famous for its apple tarts.

Alternatives to get and become

She fell ill and was taken to hospital.

Everyone fell silent when they heard the shocking news.

As my father grew older, he spent less time working.

The noise grew louder and soon we realised it was a plane approaching.

Overusing and misusing get

Here are some sentences from students’ essays where get is wrongly used.

sentences with get more appropriate alternatives
1 was able to get new friends. 1 was able to make new friends.
A year ago he got a heart attack. A year ago he had/suffered a heart attack.
If 1 get a child of my own one day … If 1 have a child of my own one day …
1 was getting crazy. 1 was going crazy.
In June, 1 got a baby, James. In June, 1 had a baby, James.

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