Get has a lot of meanings in English, but which one is used in phrase get paid? Get is often used for describing a change of state, similarly to become. But does get paid fall into this case? From what I know, when used with the verb in ING/ED state it means "begin with". Considering the change of state, should I think of it as that a person who gets paid is "becoming paid", and also his state changes to "paid" when he possesses the money? An additional question: My textbook says that GET + adjective expresses the change of state but I think it also applies to ppt past participle of verbs, right?

2 Answers 2


In the words of noted Minnesota folk grammarian Robert Zimmerman:

Get sick, get well, hang around the inkwell
Get jailed, jump bail, join the Army if you fail
Get born, keep warm, short pants, romance
Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed, try to be a success.

These are all examples of "change of state". The examples using get above follow the same pattern as your own "get paid".

To wit, get here just means become.


This is the so-called Get Passive, which works exactly the same as the Be Passive, except that different forms of get are used instead of be.

  • I was paid yesterday. ~ I got paid yesterday.
  • They were married last month. ~ They got married last month.
  • This video was seen by millions. ~ This video got seen by millions.

There is occasionally a minor distinction between the two constructions, in that the Get Passive can imply more responsibility by the agent than the Be Passive.

One difference between

  • Bill was arrested by the campus police last night.


  • Bill got arrested by the campus police last night.

is that the speaker of the second example, with got, may be implying that Bill was not blameless in the arrest. There is even an idiomatic construction

  • Bill went and got arrested by the campus police last night.

which definitely implies that Bill did it on purpose.

  • #John Lawler Would you say that in many of these examples get has a causative function?
    – thecrease
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 14:14
  • 1
    Get is the inchoative/causative form of both be and have, so it normally has such a meaning. This is what's responsible for the small difference between He was arrested and He got arrested; the first one says nothing about his involvement, but the second has a cancellable invited inference that he was responsible in part for the event. The inference is even stronger in He got himself arrested. Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 16:13

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