In (1) we can interchange was with get and thus we have (2). However, this is not only the case as in (3), we cannot use get instead of is, like in (4). How can we tell whether is interchangeable or not?

  1. John was fired.
  2. John got fired.
  3. Robert is liked by everyone.
  4. *Robert gets liked by everyone.
  5. Fred got his car stolen. (causative)


I've only seen have been used along with a passive complement, which has a causative meaning. Is this always the case?

  1. Cecil had his cair repaired by a trustworthy mechanic.
  2. I had my car towed away by the police.
  3. Susan had Carlos fired.
  • Susan didn't cause someone to steal her car.
    – tchrist
    Jun 4, 2021 at 2:51
  • @tchrist I know, but it's correct.
    – Nameless
    Jun 4, 2021 at 2:52
  • It's not a causative use.
    – tchrist
    Jun 4, 2021 at 2:53
  • 2
    OED have sense 29b covers this case. As you can see from their text, this use of have with a participle complement is not a causative and it is not even a passive: it's transitive. It is an alternative to an indirect passive, especially for ditransitives.
    – tchrist
    Jun 4, 2021 at 3:03
  • 3
    Cecil had is causative but not passive in Cecil had his car repaired by a trustworthy mechanic. The passive part is his car repaired by... In the active voice that would be: Cecil had a trustworthy mechanic repair his car. Here is had in the passive voice: A good time was had by all. Jun 4, 2021 at 3:49

1 Answer 1


There isn't any rule for get being interchangeable with be. Get is already in a paradigm with be.
As well as with have.

Get is an auxiliary verb, and it functions as the inchoative/causative form of both the auxiliary verb be and the auxiliary verb have.

  • Bill has the flu. ~ Bill got the flu. (inchoative of have)
  • Bill is sick. ~ Bill got sick. (inchoative of be)
  • Bill has a car. ~ Bill got a car. (causative of have)

So it's not interchangeable with either be or have, but when dealing with persistent predicates changes in the past affect the present and future. If Bill got a car last year, chances are he still has it. If he got sick last week, he may still be sick.

So they look like they're interchangeable, but that's not the way things work. Nothing is interchangeable. Sentence grammar is not a matter of adding words like beads on a string, changing them at will. But it's not a box of beads; it's more like a junk drawer of mismatched screws, bolts, and hinges that will miraculously fit together at speed (if you use the right tools to assemble them and don't put them under too much stress).

There are also at least adversative and causative have constructions, with or without Raising.

  • Well, you can do an English-to-English translation to see a meaning for get.....
    – Lambie
    Jun 4, 2021 at 18:13

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