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My parents are getting a divorce

Is the getting just an auxiliary verb or does it have some real meaning?

Why not: "My parents is going to divorce"?

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Utterly irrelevant to the question but the word "get" means divorce. Specifically, a Jewish rabbinical divorce (in Hebrew גט‎). – Malvolio May 8 '11 at 0:56
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Note: In your example Getting is not the auxiliary verb. The auxiliary verb is to be --> "are getting", while getting is the main verb, and divorce is a noun.

Edit: psmears, PLL and also Robusto made me doubt about my results eheh, so I re-checked everything and edited my answer.

  • First, I searched "they are getting a divorce", "they are divorcing" and "they are getting divorced".enter image description here

  • Then I searched "my parents are getting a divorce", "my parents are divorcing" and "my parents are getting divorced"enter image description here

The Google search gives results in contrast though:

  • My parents are getting a divorce = About 9,080,000 results;
  • My parents are getting divorced = About 3,070,000 results;
  • My parents are divorcing = About 396,000 results;

My proposal was not the best one in the end, so you can choose between the others two, I apologise for the previous misinformation.

The sentence "my parents is going to divorce" is wrong, because "parents" is plural, therefore it requires a plural verb: "My parents are going to divorce", which is perfectly acceptable under the grammatical point of view.

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Google says: My parents are getting a divorce: 129,000. My parents are divorcing: 77,700. – psmears May 7 '11 at 14:57
@psmears, @Robusto, @PLL, @snooze: I edited my answer and added a third possibility. It seems I was not really right, I apologise to snooze for the inexact info. :) – Alenanno May 7 '11 at 15:40

With all due respect to Google NGrams, @Alenanno's graph really only refers to what has appeared in books. It doesn't show how people really speak.

For example, I almost never hear "[X and Y] are divorcing" and instead overwhelmingly hear "[X and Y] are getting a divorce". Less frequently I hear "[X and Y] got divorced" and the like. "Divorcing" is a higher-toned way to say this, which may be why it appears in books more often.

Further, if we compare "divorcing" with "divorce" (which covers more cases involving the subject than simply "getting a divorce"), we see this NGram view:

enter image description here

Now, it may be argued that this is not a fair comparison, since "divorce" also covers single noun instances, but I would counter that the other comparison is similarly flawed, since it leaves out other instances of the "get/getting/got" construction, and the gerund form "divorcing" may be used in other contexts. In short, I take my NGrams with a grain of salt.

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I searched intentionally the occurrence of those two expressions, and if you search "divorce" and "divorcing" the range of search gets wider and, therefore, not precise, in my opinion. That said, Ngram is not the ultimate reliable source, I know that, but it can give you an idea of the tendency. I also made a search in google to see how many entries, and it kind of confirmed what the Ngram said. – Alenanno May 7 '11 at 13:28
@Alenanno: I’d disagree with Robusto about the ngram searches — I think your original one is a far more meaningful comparison than his. Nonetheless, I’d agree with him that “getting a divorce” sounds much more natural to me than “divorcing”; perhaps this is a regional difference? – PLL May 7 '11 at 14:04

In answer to the question: "get" is a verb with many many idiomatic uses in English.

One family of meanings is "become", or "change state to":

Get angry, get drunk, get impatient, get married, get vaccinated, get employed, get busy, get high, get abandoned.

"Get divorced" is squarely in this meaning.

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This is the answer – lovespring May 8 '11 at 4:46

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