Can we use "get to do" in an obligatory or imperative situation?

As in these,

  1. We get to finish this work by Friday. (Meaning we have to finish this work by Friday.)

  2. I get to reach the station in an hour to get on the train in time. (Meaning we have to reach the station in an hour to get on the train in time.)

  3. We get to tell people to escape this building right away. (Meaning we have to tell people to escape this building right away.)

  • No. To get to do something means to have the welcome opportunity to do it - there's a sharp contrast between I get to skip work on Friday and I've got to finish this work by Friday. – user339660 Apr 4 '19 at 3:38
  • @Minty what about the naturality of those sentences? Don't they make any sense? – Glittering river Apr 4 '19 at 5:13
  • it's not that they don't make sense exactly, just that they don't have the intended meaning. We get to finish this work by Friday means Lucky us! We have been blessed with the opportunity to finish the work by Friday - that does make sense but is a strange thing to say. Same for the other sentences. Sometimes get to is used ironically e.g. so I get to tell her she's being sacked, do I? In that situation there probably is an obligation to tell her she's being sacked, but the get to construction presents it as a welcome opportunity rather than an unwelcome obligation. – user339660 Apr 4 '19 at 5:17
  • @Minty well, I was just curious because I've been just answered by a native speaker that those sentences don't make much sense. I don't know why. Anyways, to my way of thinking, they do make sense. Do you even think they don't make much sense as well? – Glittering river Apr 4 '19 at 5:37
  • they don't make sense can mean different things. Normally if you say we get to finish this work by Friday, a native speaker will realise you mean we have got to finish this work by Friday, so they may say that doesn't make much sense because it does not express the meaning you intended. On the other hand, sometimes it doesn't make sense means it is ungrammatical / it is meaningless. Your phrases are not ungrammatical or meaningless, but they don't mean what you wanted to say, so I can understand why someone would say they don't make much sense. – user339660 Apr 4 '19 at 6:23

In general, no. "Get to" implies that you'd be pleased to be allowed to do the thing, so it wouldn't be obligatory or imperative.

However, there is a situation where it works. Here's an example. You and your spouse are meeting with your family therapist. Your spouse says, "I don't think X appreciates the effort I put into the many phone calls I get during the day from my mother-in-law. And these calls are really not easy to deal with when she goes on and on about not wanting to live any more. For heaven's sake, she's 68 years old -- it's not like she's 89 and in a lot of pain."

The therapist says, "X, you get to talk to your mother on the phone, because she's your mother. And Y, if your mother-in-law calls when X is out, you get to take a message for X. Just keep repeating that in a friendly tone."

In the first sentence, the therapist is using "get to" in a double-entendre sort of way. The therapist is telling you that dealing with your mother is your job, and ALSO that as onerous as this might be at times, there is going to be some pleasure and feeling of satisfaction in this at some point.

Using "get to" in this way is a little bit sarcastic.

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  • Judging by your answer and comments by Minty, "get to do" just seems to imply the change of a subject's behavior. I suspect that that would be just all to it, and its meaning is translated in many ways depending on context like you said it could sound sarcastic or in some way forceful. – Glittering river Apr 5 '19 at 3:57
  • Could there any willingness implied with "get to do" ? I think so. – Glittering river Apr 5 '19 at 4:14
  • Yes, definitely. – aparente001 Apr 5 '19 at 4:30
  • Yes, there's willingness implied (in fact a comment has just appeared from aparente saying the same thing) but I think you are overcomplicating it massively. It means the same thing in all cases, but as with any expression, it can be used ironically or sarcastically. That's not really part of the meaning of get to, it is just the effect of irony or sarcasm. I'm not sure about a change of behaviour - she's working away at the moment, but I still get to see her every weekend is fine. – user339660 Apr 5 '19 at 4:32
  • In my ironic anecdotal example, a change of behavior would be the desired result. When someone with a voice of authority tells A that he gets to do a certain thing, A is expected to do the thing, but the voice of authority didn't have to be heavy handed about it. – aparente001 Apr 11 '19 at 1:50

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