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Why is "to get" sometimes used where "to be" could be used? Is this usage grammatical?

Examples:

  • The video got uploaded to the web site.
  • The video was uploaded to the web site.

  • He got thrown in the pool.
  • He was thrown in the pool.

  • We got caught!
  • We were caught!
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  • 3
    If you wanted to search the internet for information, it might be worth knowing that this construction is called the "get-passive".
    – delete
    Sep 15, 2010 at 23:44
  • @Shinto Sherlock, thanks, I just added "get-passive" to the question title.
    – b.roth
    Sep 16, 2010 at 8:38

4 Answers 4

18

You can use forms of get instead of forms of be as an alternative way to formulate the passive voice. Passive voice clauses constructed with get are less formal than those formed with be, but otherwise have the same meaning.

However, you can’t use get for stative uses of the passive voice, where the passive indicates the result of an action. You can only use it for eventive passives, where the passive indicates an action. Here are examples of the stative passives where get is not grammatical:

   100 votes are required to pass the bill
* 100 votes get required to pass the bill

   He was rumored to be a war veteran.
* He got rumored to be a war veteran

   The plums were intended for breakfast.
* The plums got intended for breakfast.

   A vacuum is abhorred by nature.
* A vacuum gets abhorred by nature.

2

The usage is correct, if not always formal. Using "to get" puts a more active spin on the result. While the use of "to be" creates a passive-voice construction, the use of "to get" creates an active-voice construction with an implied subject -- that is, it emphasizes that someone specifically caused the action, rather than that it just happened on its own somehow.

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  • 2
    The forms with get are passive voice.
    – nohat
    Sep 15, 2010 at 18:40
1

This usage is correct, but informal. It is freely used (and extremely common) in less formal kinds of writing and speaking, but is avoided in the most formal forms of writing.

As for "why", I don't think there is any explanation other than the fact that get + <past participle> is slowly displacing be + <past participle> for the passive construction.

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  • 2
    I don’t think get passives are displacing be passives; they are just an informal alternative.
    – nohat
    Sep 15, 2010 at 18:55
0

Both forms (i.e. be and get forms followed by past participle) are grammatically correct.

The video got uploaded to the website [by a user].

is passive voice.

In a sentence using active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb. (source)

So, in this case, the subject of the sentence, "the video", wasn't the thing performing the action. The unnamed user (or whomever performed the action) did.

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  • 1
    +1 for recognizing this as passive. It's very interesting to see English develop a new construction to form it.
    – Charlie
    Sep 15, 2010 at 17:40
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    I have a feeling there's still something to be said about why it is "get" and not "be". After all, "the video was uploaded to the website [by a user]" would be just as fine.
    – RegDwigнt
    Sep 15, 2010 at 18:10
  • -1, because the OP didn't ask for the meaning of the construction, but rather its correctness and motivation. (And both of the other answers also implicitly recognized this as passive.) Sep 15, 2010 at 18:18
  • Okay, fair enough. I guess I made an assumption that the OP wasn't simply asking if, but also why one form is preferred over the other. I have added a bold typeface to the final conclusion, which answers the question that was explicitly asked.
    – pkaeding
    Sep 15, 2010 at 18:55

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