English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am a learner of the English language. I have written two sentences, please give your two minutes and let me know, which one is correct?

In the following sentences an action was started by my dog, for an example, "my dog has been running for an hour". My question is, "if someone is asking about the action like when this action started?", so which one is correct?

  • This action got started an hour ago?

  • This action started an hour ago?

share|improve this question
Hi there. This might be a better question for English learners: ell.stackexchange.com. Also, you might want to edit the title question to be more specific (eg Is it "got started" or "started"?). – nxx Jan 12 '14 at 12:18
@nxx Thanks, I am so sorry, I did not give the proper headline because I was afraid that they would put this question as a duplicated question, which sometimes does not work for me, so I need an answer for my own question and do not want to check any duplicated question, which does not belong to me. Thanks, I hope you understood my point. – user62015 Jan 12 '14 at 12:24
The problem is it looks like you are asking people to proofread something you wrote, so it won't attract the people who will actually answer it. I suspect it will be moved to the ell site by someone who knows how to do that, hence why I am holding off answering it here. – nxx Jan 12 '14 at 12:34
Sure, I understood your point. I am going to change the headline and wait for the answers. Thanks, you made a great point. – user62015 Jan 12 '14 at 12:36

There are many usages for the very common verb get.


Let's get started!

You'd better get going.

We have to get moving now.

the sense is:

.15. To begin or start. Used with the present participle [or past participle]: I have to get working on this or I'll miss my deadline. [AHD]

It is a catenative usage, and more or less colloquial. Notice that there is an element of redundancy in 'Let's get started'; it probably sounds less formal / clipped than 'Let's start'.

There is another, similar-looking usage, the 'get-passive':

Do you think you might get shot?

They got married yesterday.

Here, the meaning of 'get' is 'become', or 'be' in the transformative rather than durative sense.

In your examples, 'This action got started' might be used especially in the US, but sounds unusual to British ears. It would be the passive, meaning 'was started'.

'We got started' sounds more acceptable in the UK, but now has the non-passive sense.

'The robot got started' is ambiguous.


'The action started / began' is the usual way this would be written, especially in the UK.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your great help. Please let me understand it, so if an action was started in the past by any non-living thing so we can write "This action was started an hour ago" or "This action started an hour ago", so both are correct? – user62015 Jan 12 '14 at 13:05
Let me also tell you that what I understand by get: I got selected (it means I got a job). I selected (it means I hired someone else). – user62015 Jan 12 '14 at 13:07
'Was started' demands that there is an agent or natural cause. John started the fire <==> The fire was started by John. // Lightning started the fire <==> The fire was started by lightning. The perpetrator / natural cause need not be explicitly stated: The fire was started at about 11 o'clock. If we don't wish to foreground the perpetrator or natural cause even by implication, we just say 'The fire started at about 11 o'clock'. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 12 '14 at 22:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.