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Duo Diaries: Thursday, June 28, 2018 "Get" is not your friend

I had a conversation with a Spanish speaker not too long ago, and during this conversation, I wanted to grab a bite to eat (we were seated in a food court in a mall). So, naturally, I asked him “¿Como se dice “I want to get something to eat” en español?” What followed was a very enlightening conversation.

You see, the word “get” in English is like our Swiss Army knife. We can use it to express so many different ideas. By itself, it usually means “to obtain” (I have to get one of those). However, when combined with various prepositions or when used in different contexts, the meaning completely changes. “Get down” can literally mean to come down from a high place, or to shake your groove thing. Then there’s “get up”, “get away,” and “get over here” (as made famous by Scorpion from Mortal Kombat). You can “get to” a location or a person, but they don’t mean the same thing. “Get back” could be a warning, or it could be what you do to a rival. We can “get in” and “get out”. We can simply “get” someone or something (as in understanding a concept, joke, or person). When karma strikes, we’re often told “that’s what you get.” Sometimes, in some places, a person can tell you to leave by simply saying “get”, although usually it sounds more like “git” in this instance.

Now is where I will “get to the point” of all of this. Because we English speakers use “get” so often, we sometimes can “get (as in “become”) confused” when trying to say things in Spanish because as Marco explained to me in the food court, Spanish doesn’t use “get” the way we do.

Before you fire back with “What about OBTENER and CONSEGUIR?!” Yes, those words do mean “get (as in “obtain”)”, but they aren’t relied on as heavily as the English “get.” For example, Marco informed me that, in Spanish, I wouldn’t say “I want to get something to eat.” He informed me that usually, English “get” can be substituted or left out entirely when it is used to mean “obtain: “Quiero algo de comer” - “I want something to eat.”

I thought about what he said - that “get” can often be omitted and/or substituted - and started thinking about how this would sound in English:

“Get that for me” turns into “Give that to me”. “I need to get one” turns into “I need one” or “I need to buy one”. “Get over here” turns into “Come here”. “Get away from me” turns into “Go away”.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Since this realization, it has become considerably easier to form certain thoughts in my head, then produce Spanish phrases and sentences that are clear as a result. You often hear that you shouldn’t try to translate from one language to the other. True, but when you can, why not?

I pose this challenge to readers of this post. Think of English “get” sentences, and post them in the space below. Perhaps we can take turns rewording and then translating them for practice.

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