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I am helping a friend edit a manuscript for an informal reference book about music. There are several instances where I am perceiving a mixture of tense but I'm not sure how or whether to correct it. Here is an example sentence:

If we begin on the first note of the C major scale and skip every other note, the following chords get created:

I suggested changing "get created" to "are created."

The verbs begin and skip are clearly present tense, and I believe get created and are created are present perfect tense, so my analysis of mixed tense seems incorrect.

Why does "get" seem like incorrect usage in this example?

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    They are the passive voice, not the present perfect tense. I agree that are created is better unless the tone is very informal. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 7:53

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In "get created" there are two verb forms; the first, "get", can be considered as some sort of auxiliary of passive construction or as a dynamic conclusive verb (a copular sort of verb, like "be"). However, "be" is the normal auxiliary for passive constructions.

(A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language § 3.66) The passive auxiliaries: be and get

The passive auxiliary is normally be. Its only serious contender is get, which however is not, by most syntactic criteria, an auxiliary at all.

Moreover, get tends to be limited to constructions without an expressed animate agent:

  • The cat got run over (by a bus).
  • James got beaten last night.

Get with an animate agent is not, however, unknown:

  • James got caught (by the police).

The get-passive is avoided in formal style, and even in informal English it is far less frequent than the be-passive. Further examples are:

  • The house is getting rebuilt. [1]
  • Such criticisms will get treated with the contempt they deserve. [2]
  • This story eventually got translated into English. [3]

Get is much more common as a 'resulting copula' […] in sentences like My mother is getting old, and it may be best analysed as such in sentences which look superficially like passives, but which could not be expanded by an agent […]:

  • We are getting bogged down in all sorts of problems. (informal) [4]
  • I have to get dressed before eight o'clock. [='dress'] [5]
  • I don't want to get mixed up with the police again. (informal) [6]
  • Your argument gets a bit confused here. [7]

Similarly get bored, get tired, get (very) excited, get lost, etc. Get is a dynamic conclusive verb […], and the participles in these sentences are stative (eg: dressed'means 'in a state of wearing clothes', as in Jane is already dressed). Hence the meaning of such sentences is predictable if they are regarded as SVC sentences with get as main verb and the participle (with its modifiers if any) as complement, as suggested by this exchange:

A: I [S] 'm [V] completely confused [C].
B: Yes, I [S] 'm getting [V] confused [C], as well [A].

It is important, therefore, to draw a distinction between the passive sentences [1-3] and the copular sentences [4-7], which we may call PSEUDO-PASSIVE. At the same time, there is an affinity between these sentence types, and this is evident when we consider the meaning of the get-passive, which, like the copular get, puts the emphasis on the subject rather than the agent, and on what happens to the subject as a result of the event. Compare He got taught a lesson ['it served him right'] with:

He was/?got taught a lesson on the subjunctive (by our new teacher).

It is presumably because of the emphasis which get places on the subject referent's condition (usually an unfavourable condition) that the agent is less usual with a get-passive. This same emphasis may account in part for the fact that the get-passive often reflects an unfavourable attitude towards the action :

  • How did that window get opened?

typically implies 'It should have been left shut!'

It follows that whether the construction with 'get' is considered as a get-passive or copular get construction, the tense is the present. The present perfect of "create" is "has created", so "are created" is just the passive of "create" in the present tense.

The idea of an expressed animate agent is irrelevant in this case, it is even less likely to be expressed; thus the use of "get" as passive auxiliary makes sense, although it is informal. On the other hand, the process of skipping notes results in the construction of a chord. It is in the end a matter of point of view. If the notion of a resulting process is important in the eye of the writer, then "get" is the choice to be made. If the idea of a simple passive is all that matters, then the more formal "be" is the choice, as it carries no ambiguity. From my point of view the idea of process in progress is rather irrelevant—but I might be missing something essential—, and I'd use "be".

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  • This answer, as well as the linked duplicate, definitely answered my question, though I've had to read it several times to fully assimilate it!
    – JYelton
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:16
  • @JYelton To tell you the truth, I had to read the reference also several times, and I did need it so as better my own understanding.
    – LPH
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 17:14
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The other answer is exhaustive, I think.

It might help if you rephrase the entire sentence, though. Like this:

Playing the first note of the C major scale and then going up said scale while skipping every other note will create the following chords: C, D minor, E minor, F - etc.

Hope this helps.

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    Or just use 'result'. Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 10:24
  • @EdwinAshworth: Yep.
    – Ricky
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 10:53
  • The rewrite suggestion is helpful (and probably the best option to avoid the issue altogether), though I was seeking more detail on the word choice (get/are) itself.
    – JYelton
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:16

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