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Is the use of "get + adjective/participle" appropriate for formal writing (for example, scientific papers)? I am thinking of usages analogous to

  • get fat
  • get inflated
  • get sick

where the meaning is "become". What about cases where the meaning is "make (sg)", such as

  • get (it) done
  • get (her) dressed

Not being a native speaker, I cannot easily judge the level of formality of these constructs.

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+1 Good question. – Kris Mar 1 '12 at 14:39
up vote 5 down vote accepted

This may depend on the particular research community. I can say, at least in spoken presentations in a workshop or conference, many communities may find using 'get' just fine... but many other communities would not.

I would personally like to avoid 'get' in formal writing, I guess you mean research articles. To be sure, you should try to check if the community you belong to uses it in their literature. But, if its for emails or blogs, it maybe alright.

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Get is fine to use if it fits, but it is probably too general for most cases where you might use it in a scientific paper. Consider precise substitutions:

got a reaction => produced a reaction
test subjects got rashes => test subjects exhibited rashes
we got results using a .04% solution => results were achieved using a .04% solution

That kind of thing. You can use get where appropriate, though:

In many cases, test subjects got up from their chairs and left the room rather than answer any more questions.

And one place you may definitely use it is in emails to your colleagues:

Good news! We got our funding! Booyah!

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Not sure if this fits the OP's idea of using get (become/make). See OP's examples. – Kris Mar 1 '12 at 14:42
@Kris: Well, in chat the OP said it did. But thanks for down-voting an answer you're not sure about based on your interpretation of someone else's idea (which of course you can measure to six decimal places). – Robusto Mar 1 '12 at 14:51
Rather, thanks for your presumption that I down voted you. lol. Down voters mostly don't comment here these days. – Kris Mar 1 '12 at 14:54
@Kris: The two things happened with apparent simultaneity. Pardon me if I blasted you with "post hoc ergo propter hoc." – Robusto Mar 1 '12 at 14:55

Get has a lot of uses in English. It's the Causative/Inchoative form of both be and have. That is, it can represent either come to be (= become) or come to have when it's inchoative -- Inchoatives are intransitive and refer to change of state -- or it can represent either cause to be or cause to have when it's causative -- Causatives are transitive and refer to causing change.

  • Stative: He was tired/sick/here/mad/arrested/writing.
  • Inchoative He got tired/sick/here/mad/arrested/writing.
  • Causative He got me tired/sick/here/mad/arrested/writing.

Consequently, get can be used in most constructions and idioms that involve either be or have. And there are an awful lot of them.

As far as its usage in scientific papers is concerned, I agree with Karthik that this depends entirely on the traditions of the research community. Nobody should attempt to write (let alone publish) scientific research in any field without having read many, many papers in the same field, and by that time, they should be aware of the traditional writing styles and conventions in their field.

Oh, and most of the examples provided in the OQ are not participles, by the way.

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"Nobody should attempt to write (let alone publish) scientific research in any field without having read many, many papers in the same field, and by that time, they should be aware of the traditional writing styles and conventions in their field." <---- You seem to forget that in all sciences most authors are not native speakers of English, and also that us non-native speakers are not nearly as sensitive to differences in nuances, and therefore can't easily form a good picture of the "traditional writing style" (if such a thing exists at all). It is not very nice what you are implying there. – Szabolcs Mar 1 '12 at 15:32
No implication is intended, except that no one should attempt to publish science without understanding published science, in whatever language is relevant. All people, even scientists, vary greatly in how well they understand, read, and write languages. So I would think it is "not very nice" to claim that non-native speakers of English cannot learn a writing style by example. I've known many who have; and I've also known many native speakers who haven't. – John Lawler Mar 1 '12 at 15:48

protected by RegDwigнt Nov 17 '13 at 14:32

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