I'd like to know what is the difference of each of these options:

to get to know someone

to know someone

in the context of meeting someone for the first time, become friends, to know the identity of a person...

What is the different uses of each? Can I use them in any tense? Can you give examples?


2 Answers 2


Barrie described the difference rather well. As for your question on tenses, the expression get to know can indeed be used in a variety of tenses:

I just got a new job. I expect that I will get to know my new boss much better over the next few weeks.

I'm liking my new job. I'm starting to fit in as my coworkers are getting to know me better.

Now that I'm retiring, I'll miss this place. I got to know a lot of interesting people over the years.

I was a little sad when I put in my retirement papers; I had gotten to know a lot of interesting people at that job. I still miss them sometimes.

Note how, in the first example, get to know is different from meet. The new employee may have already met her new boss, and could perhaps recognize the boss in a crowded store. But knowing a person implies more than that. When you know someone, you understand their personality and quirks: you understand their sense of humor, you know what irritates them, you can tell when they're feeling sad. You know what sports teams they like, you know what they like to do on the weekends, you know their favorite movies or books or television programs. Getting to know someone is the process of acquiring that knowledge; it usually takes months or years.

You can also know someone and be getting to know someone at the same time – if you've learned a lot about that individual, but are also still learning new things about that person on a regular basis.

  • "To get to do sth" means to get the opportunity to do it, So you can get to know someone way before you actually meet or know them, i.e. before the process of knowing starts: Tomorrow Bob's family are coming here. We just arranged the party. I've heard he has a gorgeous brother. Now I get to meet and know this boy! (not necessarily will get)
    – Færd
    Nov 9, 2015 at 15:13

I can say that I know a person only after I have got to know that person. Get to know describes the process, know describes the result.

  • Can I say something like: "When we got to know we were in a party"? Is it the same as "when we met for the first time we were in a party"?
    – Juanillo
    Nov 9, 2012 at 9:29
  • 1
    @Juanillo (a) No; "get to know" means a process, not an occasion (like meeting); (b) what are you getting to know? It would be "got to know each other," not that you got to know that you were at a party. And it's at a party. Oh, and using comments for scope-creep of questions like this is generally frowned upon.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 9, 2012 at 9:39
  • thanks to both of you, and sorry for the question in the comment.
    – Juanillo
    Nov 9, 2012 at 10:04

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