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Trying to find out if phrases like "went and got" are correct, e.g.:

She went and got the book.

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  • I think it's probably unintentional that your particular example allows for the possibility that went really does have the literal sense of physically going somewhere. Assuming I'm right, perhaps you could consider editing to a different example where that interpretation can't apply, such as He went and hit me. – FumbleFingers Jan 29 '14 at 0:14
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Absolutely. "Went and got" match and can therefore be used together. As a simple test, you can try "she went," and also "she got," so putting them together is fine. If you said: "She went to the store and got the book," you probably wouldn't even question the phrase. Dropping "to the store" is fine.

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I think in American English, OP's example probably comes across as slightly odd, bordering on tautologous. But certainly lots of Brits have no problem with, for example, He went and left me, particularly in an informal spoken context.

That's because in British English, we often use to go and [do it] meaning to proceed [to do it] (often, in contexts where doing it was unexpected, amusing, and/or offensive to the speaker). But I don't think the usage in common in AmE.

My advice to OP would be to avoid the doubled verb form unless it's important to convey the sense of both leaving and returning/fetching. That same advice is in the example from The Dimwit's Dictionary which I linked to above, where Robert Hartwell Fiske (endorsed by William Safire) says "DELETE went and".

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  • In American English it is the same. "I went and did something". It is a bit informal and so not appropriate for more formal written work. But how is 'to go' (went) and 'to get' (got) odd or tautologous? – Mitch Jan 28 '14 at 23:07
  • Good answer. "She went and got the book" is grammatically fine, but it is redundant and therefore something to avoid for stylistic reasons. Unless you're giving more information about where she went, simply saying that someone had to fetch something implies that they moved, so no need to spell it out. – AmeliaBR Jan 28 '14 at 23:43
  • @Mitch: We don't know the context, but to my British ear, OP's example could easily suggest something along the lines of "She liked the film so much she went and got the book". Where went and might well imply nothing whatsoever about physical movement (she might have just downloaded it onto her Kindle while she was still in the cinema, for all I know). I didn't find any earlier questions on go and do it = (unexpectedly, suddenly) proceed to do it, and I feel a bit diffident about telling you what Americans say, but I'm not convinced it's much used in AmE. – FumbleFingers Jan 29 '14 at 0:05
  • It might be added that the went and construction has a secondary nuance, indicating affront or indignation at the action undertaken (especially in the historical present tense and in conjunction with on me, indicating the action has had a negative impact on the speaker): “And then, without as much as a word of farewell, he goes and disappears on me!” — “And then of course he went and got himself killed, so now we'll never know where he hid the treasure.” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '14 at 1:31
  • "I'm not much convinced it's much used in AmE" ...really? Not that it should help with convincing but ngrams on "went and got" has a higher frequency in AmE than BrE. – Mitch Jan 29 '14 at 1:44
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It sounds a bit crude when you could have used 'went to get' but it's equally valid English.

They do have different connotations; "went and got" implies the description of an action in more of a narrative context, following the action step by step (and possibly in the first person); "went to get" is more clearly past tense and - at least to me - infers a summarisation of a potentially complex set of actions.

It's all open to interpretation though!

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    I would say that "went to get" is semantically different from "went and got". The first version leaves open the possibility that the person has not yet returned from the errand; the latter implies that both the going and the getting have been completed. However, I suspect that's why "went and got" is a common form in casual English -- it's the natural past-tense version of "went to get". – AmeliaBR Jan 28 '14 at 23:48
  • @Amelia, went to get does not necessarily imply that the getting is completed. “Where's Martin?” — “Oh, he went to get some milk from the store, he'll be back in a bit.” – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '14 at 1:25
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    @JanusBahsJacquet That's what I was trying to say; I guess I wasn't clear. It's "went and got" that implies that both are completed. So the two are different in meaning, not just in grammar. – AmeliaBR Jan 29 '14 at 3:42
  • @Amelia, so you did! I must have switched the two around when I read your comment—apologies! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '14 at 10:39

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