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There was a passage which had a blank, which I had to fill in. The sentence was

...can save a worm from _______ up by a bird.

I wrote getting eaten, but was informed that the correct answer was being eaten.

Can both be correct?

3 Answers 3

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Both can save a worm from being eaten and can save a worm from getting eaten are correct, although the get-passive is somewhat more informal. In fact, the get-passive is appropriate in this context since it emphasises the negative consequence of the action (eating) for the patient (worm).

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (p1441-1443) discussion of the get-passive includes this extract:

Adversity and benefit: Get occurs predominantly in passives representing situations that have an adverse or a beneficial effect on the subject referent, or on someone associated with it, rather than in passives representing purely neutral situations. Typical examples: Kim got sacked. My watch got stolen.

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    With due respect to the Cambridge Grammar... I don't personally consider it good English to say 'he got eaten by an alligator'. The verb 'get' suggests that the subject played some part in arranging whatever it was that happened. I know that millions of Americans use it as second nature, but it is colloquial, largely to North America, I suggest.
    – WS2
    Oct 5, 2014 at 8:32
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    But the sentence to be completed has "... can save a worm from _______ up by a bird." The passive get in the gerund form getting eaten up sounds a bit weird to my ears.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 5, 2014 at 9:08
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    @WS2, I suspect that the get-passive is no less common in informal BrE than in AmE.
    – Shoe
    Oct 5, 2014 at 11:26
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    @Mary-Lou. (The pre-edited question asked for the correctness of being eaten up by a bird and getting eaten by a bird.) I agree that the inclusion of up, in both grammatical variants, makes the sentence sound odd. This may be because, for me, eat up does not collocate naturally with a small single item, such as a worm, that is easy to swallow. Hence Eat up French Fry sounds somewhat odd, but Eat up your French Fries does not
    – Shoe
    Oct 5, 2014 at 11:38
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    @EdwinAshworth A country called "England" does have some priority when it comes to defining what is "English". The thing that always puzzles me is why in the USA they do not take pride in calling their language "American"? In fact didn't Webster call his original effort "a Dictionary of the American language"?
    – WS2
    May 3, 2018 at 7:48
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I repeatedly hear "She will get indicted." It seems better to say "She will be indicted." I use "get" for physical objects, as in "I will get the hose (for you)."

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  • Hello, Gina. Please look at the quality of Shoe's answer to get a feel for the standard of answer ELU prefers. May 2, 2018 at 21:17
  • +1 You are absolutely right, Gina. However I too recognise @Shoe's answer as valuable. The only thing I would add to it is that the get passive is far more common in America than in Britain.
    – WS2
    May 3, 2018 at 20:44
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'getting eaten up' refers to the progressive state, the period during which the worm is being eaten

'being eaten up' means the above, too, but also translates to the past state of having been eaten up

They are both correct to my eye, at least

Edit: actually on second thoughts 'getting' might be an issue as it doesn't necessarily make sense. Similarly when we say 'I get phone calls' 'I get lazy" - it's using 'get' in place of verbs that actually make sense, like receive a phone call, become lazy etc.

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