Get around (intransitive verb): finally to say or do something after delay, hesitation, or being involved with other things

I wondered when you'd get around to telling me that.

Microsoft® Encarta® 2009

This is the only major dictionary which treats the otherwise phrasal verb get around to as an intransitive meaning of get around.

After checking the Wikipedia article for phrasal verbs, I'd like to know what criteria lead to such an unusual analysis.

  • 1
    Probably just incompetence. If the formatting is original, they emphasized the to as part of the example S, but omitted it in the definition. Clearly it is not intransitive, and clearly it takes gerund objects as well as simple NPs. BTW, I wouldn't call get around to a phrasal verb, because it doesn't do particle shift. Rather, it's more a fused idiom, like look into, think about, or take a shot at, expressing a particular verbal aspect. Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 18:16
  • 1
    @JohnLawler fused idiom?
    – GJC
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 18:36
  • Like breakfast or maybe. Words that are used together tend to get stuck together, like tinkertoy scraps left out in the rain, until you can barely tell there used to be more than one word there. The end state is where they can break apart at new places, like helicopter, which started off as helico ('spiral') + pter ('wing'), but now breaks into heli- and copter. Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 18:43
  • Is that like a round tuit? :-)
    – Jim
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 19:41
  • Uh, it's "[get around] [to telling me that]". The "to" sequence is a separate infinitive phrase.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 21:13

1 Answer 1


As previously discussed on ELU (Impinge: transitive or intransitive?, “Get on”: is it transitive, intransitive or both?), many sources reserve the term "transitive" for verbs that take a direct object, and define "direct object" as something like a noun phrase that is a direct complement of the verb. This definition of "transitive" excludes verb constructions involving a prepositional phrase ("prepositional verbs"), where the direct complement of the verb is the prepositional phrase (which in turn contains the noun phrase as the complement of the preposition).

The sentence "I wondered when you'd get around to telling me that" has no direct object: it takes the prepositional phrase "to telling me that" as its complement (where "telling me that" is the complement of the preposition to). (Technically, in some theories, "telling me that" might not qualify as a direct object in any circumstances because it is a clause rather than a noun phrase, but that's a different issue. For the purposes of your question, we could avoid that topic by altering the example to something like "I wondered when you'd get around to it" or "I wondered when you'd get around to the point of your visit").

The linked Wikipedia article "Phrasal verb" discusses the (possible) distinction between "phrasal verb" constructions involving particles and "prepositional verb" constructions involving prepositional phrases. The expression "get around to" makes use of both the particle "around" and the preposition "to".

Some particle verbs take a direct object, and so would be considered transitive by all terminology systems. Wikipedia gives the example "You can take on Susan"/ "You can take Susan on", where "Susan" is a direct object (the two possibile word orders indicate that on Susan is not a prepositional phrase in the first sentence).

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