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According to one online dictionary, get can mean “to go to another place and come back with something or someone” (word choice). If so, then why do you sometimes use “go get something”, prefixing get with go?

Examples:

May I get some water?
May I go get some water?

Get the soap!
Go get the soap!

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4 Answers 4

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Particularly in American English, go get means ‘go and get’. Yeah, I know, it’s redundant, but then so is much else in the language.

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  • You also get stacked motion verbs like run get and come get.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 6:16
  • Barrie, you're right. Saying go get is a part of American English in particular.
    – Tristan
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:10
  • British usage versus American usage.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:15
  • @Tristan I was unaware that Jane Austen was American: 1813 Jane Austen Letters (1884) II. 216 — Your Streatham and my Bookham may go hang.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:19
  • tchrist, as far as I know, Jane Austen was not exactly someone from the current era in the UK, where it is normal for people to use the word go followed by and or to. I have not heard anyone using it without and or to, except Americans.
    – Tristan
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:35
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There is a difference in "May I go get some water?" vs. "May I get some water?" where the action of leaving to obtain the water is expressed rather than implied. An expectation permission to have water is expected but that permission to leave to obtain it is not. Generally though such usage is a matter of style and to "go get" is generally a US English usage.

In some regions (mainly US) "May I get some water?" would be to request water rather than to acquire it for yourself and used in place of "May I have some water?"

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This happens for three reasons.

  1. The construction "go + bare infinitive" (and "come + bare infinitive") is ubiquitous and productive. That is, any infinitive can be used there. And sometimes it just so happens that that infinitive is get. Strictly speaking it can even be another go — that is, "may I go go there" is theoretically possible. This construction is not limited to American or informal English, either.
  2. Redundancy is not ungrammatical or wrong. It is only redundant. It is not a rule of English — or any language, for that matter — that if a word can be removed, it must be removed. And in spoken language you can't take it back anyway.
  3. As you can see from the other answers so far, some people disagree that it is redundant in the first place. "Go get" doesn't quite mean the same as just "get".

In short: it gets produced because it's grammatical, and sticks around because at worst it has no reason not to and at best it actually serves a purpose.

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  • I in vain tried to locate some generally accepted “professional” term for this phenomenon other than “verb stacking”, so have tagged this question (and others) with such. I’m talking about non-modal stacks, usually and perhaps always involving verbs of motion. I have to believe that there exists a body of professional literature analysing this sort of thing, but seem to be misgoogling. Maybe I need to just use Google Scholar or something.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:09
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Go means ( define:go in google )

move from one place to another; travel.

leave; depart.
"I really must go"
synonyms:   leave, depart, take one's leave, take oneself off, go away, go off, withdraw, absent oneself, say one's goodbyes, quit, make an exit, exit;

May I get some water ? ( without going somewhere how will I get water. Water will not come to me )

So, May I go get some water ? suggests that although it is implicit in get ( to go ), adding another go to it ensures you are communicating ( very clearly ) that look i have to go ( take trouble to move ) to get you some water but i will go.

A very lazy view.

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