Is ‘get’ acceptable in formal writing?

Ask any ESL student and they will readily admit that English grammar is confusing enough. What makes this even more confounding is the fact that it is changing continuously.

Some of the strict grammar rules that you memorized at school are no longer valid.

You might think you are speaking ‘perfect English’ by following these rules, but you will sound stuffy and pedantic.

In this article, we will take a look at some current trends in modern English usage.

The growing popularity of get

Get is one of the commonest words in English. It still isn’t considered appropriate in formal and academic writing. However, the truth is that it is becoming more common.

Puritans still insist that get has only one meaning, namely – obtain. But consult any modern dictionary and you will find that get has scores of different meanings.

Get can, for example, mean ‘acquire’, ‘become’, ‘earn’, ‘bring’, ‘fetch’ and similar ideas.

You can get angry, get tired, get drunk or get sick.

Examples are given below.

  • If you drink too much wine, you will get drunk. (= you will become drunk.)
  • He gets 300 dollars a week. (= He earns 300 hundred dollars a week.)
  • He got angry when I told him that he was a stupid.

While this usage of get is perfectly acceptable in informal speech and writing, you should try and use more precise vocabulary when you write a formal letter or academic essay.

Compare:

  • Merlin got a strong British accent while holidaying in London. (Very informal)
  • Merlin acquired a strong British accent while holidaying in London. (Formal)
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