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Finally, I got rid of Karen. / Finally, I was rid of Karen.

  1. rid of is a phrasal verb whose direct object is Karen

  2. got and was function as copular verbs

  3. rid of Karen together is a participle clause (past participle clause?!) which is adjectival and serves as the predicate adjective complementing got/was


Is my three-point analysis above right?

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3 Answers 3

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Be/Get rid of is not a phrasal verb. Rid is an idiomatic predicate (the past participle of the verb rid, rid, rid) that combines with an auxiliary be like other participle adjectives like tired or pleased, and indicates an object by way of a preposition.

  • He finally got rid of that cold.
  • He's pretty tired of hamburgers by now.
  • He's quite pleased with the new dishwasher.

In the case of pleased the preposition is with; in the case of rid and tired, it's of.

That works for both stative be rid of and causative/inchoative get rid of. They both use of because they both use rid. The difference between be and get is the difference between a state and making the state come about. That's what "causative/inchoative" means.

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  • I'm curious if they are still considered prepositional verbs, or is there a test which rid, tired, and pleased flunk. Or should this be asked as a new question?
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 10, 2021 at 15:43
  • What's a "prepositional verb"? Dec 10, 2021 at 20:02
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I agree with your analysis.

It is possible for rid to be a pure adjective = clear/cleared of something that is unwanted.[1] It is now very rare as a true adjective. If it is accepted that “rid” is an adjective, then “of Karen” is an adverbial prepositional phrase modifying “rid” and “rid of Karen” is a complement, and there is no phrasal verb.

The alternative is that, as you say, “rid” is a participle modifier acting (with “of Karen”) as a predicate complement.

The OED also suggests that both to be rid of, and to get rid of are phrasal verbs with slightly different meanings:

P1 a. to be rid of: to be freed or relieved from (a troublesome or unwanted thing or person).

2000 M. Barrowcliffe Girlfriend 44 iii. 91 I consider everyone as a life partner—apart from Gerrard, of course. One day I will be rid of him.

P2. to get rid of: to remove or dispose of (a troublesome or unwanted thing or person).

2002 Woodworker Aug. 91/2 Smooth any rough edges to get rid of splinters.

I would disagree a little with this as to be indicates a state, whereas to get/ become indicates a change of state – as you say, both are copular.

[1] OED: Rid (adj.) rare. That has been ridded or cleared. Also rid-up. 1628 in H. Paton Dundonald Parish Rec. (1936) 246 He saw Robert Bowman fall on the rid land.

1866 C. Kingsley Hereward the Wake II. viii. 137 ‘We will make room for you! We will make a rid road from here to Winchester!’ shouted the Meeting, with one voice.

(You will see that rid expresses the idea of something that has been emptied of unwanted things.)

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    “slightly different meanings” may be understating it. “I got rid of Karen” could mean you killed her; “I was rid of Karen” could mean someone else killed her. Or just drove her out of the house. Does the OP think they’re equivalent?
    – Xanne
    Jun 18, 2020 at 1:02
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Get rid of and be rid of mean two different things.

In this instance get rid of means: (MW.com)

to do something so as to no longer have or be affected or bothered by (something or someone that is unwanted)

Get in this phrase is non-copular. "I got sick" has copular get. This is not like that. Instead, it's an action. get rid of is the phrasal verb.

to be rid of means: (MW.com)

to no longer have or be affected or bothered by (someone or something that is unwanted or annoying)

In this case, be is the copula and rid is an adjective: (Wiktionary)

Released from an obligation, problem, etc. (usually followed by of)

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