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?

  • 4
    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.

  • 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 question relies a lot on tenses. In addition to present, future, and past tense, there's also progressive and perfect tense. Progressive and perfect work in conjunction with present/future/past, to talk about the state of an action.

Progressive tense is an action that is currently ongoing and perfect tense refers to action that has finished and the time that this occurred relies on perfect, future, or past tense.

For example, progressive present reads like

The washing machine is running.

Currently, as we speak, the washing machine is running.

Progressive past

The washing machine was running.

In the past, the washing machine was running.

Your question refers to an ongoing action in the past (my dog has been running for an hour) which would be progressive past-- the tense shown in the last example.

The most natural way to explain your situation would be, "This action started a hour ago," because it fills the rules applying to the proper expression of progressive past tense. The other option of "This action got started a hour ago," (and I'm replacing your 'an' with an 'a,' because 'an' is only used if the word following it starts with a vowel) would still be technically correct but still awkward because the 'got' is unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence, and slows down its flow.

You don't need to use the got because the past tense was already established in your sentence by using "started."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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