There's a song from the 80's whose title is "Hangin' on a string" (By Loose Ends). The singer keeps singning "You've got me hangin' on a string now".

I wonder what it means exactly (You keep me hanging on? You keep me waiting?). Is this just the title of a song or a sort of phrase? I've never heard it exept in this song. Is it still in use nowadays?

I also wonder if the construction "get someone doing something" is correct, maybe colloquial? Are there exemples that are similar to "You got me hangin'". Could I say "You got me laughing?" instead of "You made me laugh"?

I remember another song by Tone Loc (I got it goin' on) and we can mention a phrase such as "Let's get going!". When can I find the -ING ending in a verb that follows GET?

Grammar books don't really deal with the subject. Why?

  • "Get someone doing something" is indeed correct. Here (EnglishForums, Wordreference) are some brief explanations. The one I found to be more accurate is: to get someone doing something means to get the person into that state or condition. There's also this
    – Yay
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


The controlling (literally!) metaphor here has to do with puppetry. The narrating character has the sense of being ready to act, but is forced to wait for the other person (the puppeteer, in effect) to pull a string to initiate or even simply to allow his/her movement.

This idea is referenced in the Loose Ends video, where a character is immobilised by the very 'strings' that would make him active if pulled suitably.

It is also fairly clearly pointed-up in the lyric: the narrator is perplexed and distressed over heart and love being poised to take action while the puppeteer is merely 'waiting' and 'contemplating'... possibly deciding what to do... but possibly not even that. The narrator is helpless, whatever, and feels unfairly treated like a 'plaything'.

It seems that Loose Ends were still playing this at big gigs, at least until 2010. This song seems to have been their encore.

The usage is fairly common. Its most famous outing is probably Sandie Shaw's performance for the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, 'Puppet on a String'.

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