Get – Go – Turn – Become

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.

big, large, great and tall- high

1.We use big mostly in an informal style.

  • We’ve got a big new house.
  • Get your big feet off my flowers.
  • That’s a really big improvement.
  • You’re making a big mistake.

In a more formal style, we prefer large or great.

Large is used with concrete nouns (the names of things you can see, touch, etc).

Great is used with abstract nouns (the names of ideas etc).

  • It was a large house situated near the river.
  • I’m afraid my daughter has rather large feet
  • Her work showed a great improvement last year.

With uncountable nouns, only great is possible.

  • There was great confusion about the dates. (NOT . . . big confusion . . .)
  • I felt great excitement as the meeting came nearer.

2. Tall is used to talk about vertical height (from top to bottom). It is mostly used for people; sometimes for buildings and trees. 

  • ‘How tall are you?’ ‘One metre ninety-one.’

3.We also use great to mean ‘famous’ or ‘important’.

  • Do you think Napoleon was really a great man?
  • Newton was probably the greatest scientist who ever lived.

4.We sometimes use great to mean ‘wonderful’ (very informal).

  • I’ve had a great idea!
  • How’s the new job?’ ‘Great.’
  • It’s a great car.

5. Note that large is a ‘false friend’ for people who speak some European languages. It does not mean the same as wide.

  • The river is a hundred metres wide. (NOT . . . metres large)

6. tall and high

a We use tall for things which are this shape:

We can talk about tall people, trees, and sometimes buildings.

  • How tall are you9 (NOT How high are you?)
  • There are some beautiful tall trees at the end of our garden.

We do not use tall for things which are this shape, We use high.

  • Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe (NOT . . . the tallest mountain.)
  • It’s a very high room. (NOT . . . tall room.)

b We use high to say how far something is above the ground.

  • A child standing on a chair may be higher than his father, but not taller.

c Parts of the body are long, not tall.

  • She’s got beautiful long legs. (NOT tall legs.)

List T

taping or tapping? tape + ing = taping
tap + ing = tapping
testimonial or
TESTIMONIAL = formal statement in the
form of an open letter bearing witness to
someone’s character, qualifications and
relevant experience
TESTIMONY = formal written or spoken
statement of evidence, especially in a
court of law
thank you or
I should like to THANK YOU very much
for your help.
THANK YOU for your help.
Ihavewrittenallmy THANK-YOU
You will see that ‘thank you’ is NEVER
written as one word. It is hyphenated
only when used as a compound adjective
describing ‘letter’ or another noun.
Those who care about such things can
never bring themselves to buy otherwise
attractive thank-you cards that have
THANKYOU or THANK-YOU printed on
troop or troupe? TROOP refers to the armed forces or to
groups of people or particular animals:
a TROOP of scouts
a TROOP of children
a TROOP of monkeys
TROUPE refers to a group of touring
actors, dancers, musicians or other

as if – as though

as if / though + subject + present /past verb

as if / though + subject +past verb with present meaning

1. As if and as though mean the same .
We use them to say what a situation seems like.

  • It looks as if/ though it’s going to rain
  • I felt as if/ though I was dying

2. We can use a past tense with a present meaning after as it/though.
This means that the idea is unreal.

  • He looks as if he’s rich (perhaps he is rich)
  • She talks as if she was rich (but she isn’t)

We can use were instead of was when we express unreal ideas after as it/ though.
This is common in a formal style.

  • She talks as if she were rich.

3.  Like is often used instead of as if/ though , especially in American English
This is very informal.

  • It looks like it’s going to rain

Although / though / even though, In spite of / despite

After although we use a subject + verb:’

  • Although it rained a lot, we enjoyed our holiday.
  • I didn’t get the job although I had the necessary qualifications.

Compare the meaning of although and because:

  • We went out although it was raining.
  • We didn’t go out because it was raining.

After in spite of or despite, we use a noun, a pronoun (this/that/what etc.) or -ing:

  • In spite of the rain, we enjoyed our holiday.
  • I didn’t get the job in spite of having the necessary qualifications.
  • She wasn’t well, but in spite of this she went to work.
  • In spite of what I said yesterday, I still love you.

Despite is the same as in spite of. We say in spite of, but despite [without of):

  • She wasn’t well, but despite this she went to work.(not despite of this)

You can say in spite of the fact (that) … and despite the fact (that) … :

  • I didn’t get the job in spite of the fact (that) I had the necessary qualifications.
    I didn’t get the job despite the fact (that) I had the necessary qualifications.

Compare in spite of and because of:

  • We went out in spite of the rain, (or … despite the rain.)
  • We didn’t go out because of the rain.

Compare although and in spite of / despite:

  • Although the traffic was bad,/In spite of the traffic, we arrived on time,
    In spite of the traffic was bad)
  • I couldn’t sleep, although I was very tired./despite being very tired.
    despite I was tired)

Sometimes we use though instead of although:

  • I didn’t get the job though I had the necessary qualifications.

In spoken English we often use though at the end of a sentence:

  • The house isn’t very nice. I like the garden though. (= but I like the garden)
  • I see them every day. I’ve never spoken to them though. (= but I’ve never spoken to them)

Even though (but not ‘even’ alone) is a stronger form of although:

  • Even though I was really tired, I couldn’t sleep, (not Even I was really tired …)