What are the differences in meaning and usage between "to start" and "to get started"?

Are there any cases in which these variants are not interchangeable? I feel that there are. For example, this page looks less natural with its Start tab than it would with a Getting Started tab. I cannot see why there is a difference. Could you please explain?

5 Answers 5


I think to some degree "to get started" is a weasel phrase. Either you start something, and then it runs, or you don't. "Get started" implies, start it, but don't expect any results yet, because you're still starting and not actually doing yet.

Of course, the language is full of weasel phrases that add color and fuzziness, attempting to reflect the nuances of reality. Feel free to use them when it feels natural, but when you need clarity, use a different phrase, such as "start the planning phase" or "Silverlight installation tutorial".

A similar phrase is "to finish up" vs. "to stop".


To get started (on sth) is more like to start off (with sth). To start gets me thinking in the direction of starting an engine. In the case of a web page or so, this would be used if there were a process or wizard and I wanted to go (back) to the beginning.

Get started as in your example implies that it is me that gets started by somebody else (imperative passive), get equipped, get a starter or beginning lecture. One could replace it with start here.


"To start" is an active construction, while "to get started" is a passive one.

There are some schools of thought that object to the use of passive verbs in formal writing, though that opinion is somewhat antiquated. Both are acceptable, but they do carry slightly different connotations--the emphasis is in different places.

  • 1
    "There are some schools of thought that object to the use of passive verbs in formal writing" — really?! Can you point me to one? I've never seen such a thing, definitely not a school of thought. (If anything, the passive voice is more common in formal writing.) Certainly there is a bit of stylistic advice found in many places (say, in Strunk&White) that points out that in many cases the active voice is more "direct"/"vigorous"/etc., but even there there's no objection to the passive voice as such, and certainly not on grounds of formality. Oct 13, 2010 at 17:37
  • 3
    More importantly, "to get started" isn't really passive voice. :-) Oct 13, 2010 at 17:38
  • 1
    Strunk & White's style guide is the one I was thinking of, with the recommendation to avoid the passive voice. I've had some English teachers in the past who directed that the passive voice be avoided whenever possible, though the lesson never really "took" with me. ;-p
    – munin
    Oct 13, 2010 at 17:49
  • "To get started" is a sort of gerund phrase, now that I look at it more closely. In which case, there would necessarily be another verb in any sentence that uses "to get started" (e.g. I want to get started, or He needs to get started.) In any event, the "start" vs. the "get started" construction is much more direct and, for those not familiar with the language, clearer.
    – munin
    Oct 13, 2010 at 18:02

Get started would imply that there is more than one thing to do and many of them have to be completed. Start would imply that there is one thing to be done and it needs to be accomplished soon.


Get can be used with a past participle. This structure often has a reflexive meaning, to talk about things that we do to ourselves, such as get dressed, and get washed. Get started would be included in this group.

Get + the past participle is somewhat informal but is used frequently in conversation. It would also be possible to say, more in written documents and in more formal speech, (except in fixed expressions), "I need to dress," "They're going to marry in July," and "You need to wash." In this way, how to get started would be less formal and much more conversational than how to start.

Aside from the formal/informal distinction, there is a slightly different meaning between start and get started. Start would indicate the beginning of an action that will continue, such as start walking, start paying attention, or start writing your exam. In contrast, get started refers only to the action of beginning an activity. You could continue walking, paying attention, or writing your exam, for example, but the expression get started would refer to just the action of beginning the activity.

Source: https://www.pearson.com/english/

  • What is this a quote from? You need to give attribution.
    – Laurel
    Jan 5 at 12:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.