What is the difference between "get" and "take"? Both are used to describe receiving something. By intuition I mostly guess which one to use, but would like to know some rule which will stick in my head.
It's hard to say. Generally,
take denotes an active action, like "I took his cheese," while
get denotes a passive one, like "I got my paycheck today." Besides that, you just have to memorize which one to use where.
Examples of take:
- I take a shower.
- I take it that you're going. (Meaning: From what I can tell, you are going.)
- I take my pills daily. (Action of consuming.)
- I took your cheese. (Physical removal of an object.)
- The main point I took away from that was... (understanding a concept)
- I took her to the opera. (Conducting someone.)
- I took up doing cocaine. (to start a habit)
Examples of get:
- I got my paycheck. (Received from someone else giving it to you.)
- I get you. (As in, I understand you).
- I didn't get that, please repeat it. (As in, I didn't hear).
- Get out of here.
- Get dressed. Take your time. (From PyroTiger).
- Get up!
- Get a life.
It depends how you use the two words. The both words can be used as passive or active verb depending on the situation.
Let's look at this example: My boss asked me to (take, get) the office key from his office assistant. Here, if you use (take), your expression may sound harsh.
Example 2: The detective (got, took) the suspect by force as he left the restaurant. In this example, either of the two verbs in the parenthesis are correct.
Given that both take and get have many uses and idioms, the short answer is: When talking about movement take is usually away, and done by the speaker. Get is usually towards and often done by someone else. For example I get groceries from the store. I take them home. Or with an example like "I take a taxi." or "I get a taxi." They mean practically the same thing. But the first emphasizes the fact that you will go by taxi. Getting a taxi emphasizes the act of calling a service to have someone bring a taxi. (that you then take to a destination.) When discussing acquiring things, take emphasizes the act and can be with or without permission. Again, the subject is doing the taking. Get implies permission and often that someone else is doing the giving. An Example is an adult walks into the break room and takes a cookie. (maybe he had permission, maybe he didn't. we don't know.) He tells his son, "If you are good you will get a cookie." The kid will have explicit permission to receive the cookie and likely someone else will give it to them.
Keep in mind that get can also mean to become or to understand. And take is used in several idiomatic expressions like, "My take" which refers to your opinion. Because English is crazy like that. ;-)