GET and TAKE – What’s the difference?
Some of my English students in Japan have had trouble with the verbs GET and TAKE. These verbs are used in many ways so I made this blog post to help ESL students understand these common English verbs. Now with video and 8 MP3 audio files.
GET is used when another person (or thing) GIVES you something. This is passive.
TAKE doesn’t always need another person (or thing). Something can be TAKEN by a single person in the sentence. This is active.
These two verbs are extremely common in English and they are used in many different situations. This is one of the longest posts I have written. Please use the table of contents to help you quickly navigate this post.
Table of Contents
- Get vs. Take Examples
- Get vs. Take Definitions (to receive)
- GET and TAKE 12 More common uses
- FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
|get verb – receive/obtain – I got a call from Gary this morning.|
(I received a call from Gary this morning. This is passive, I just received the call.)
|take verb – accept/receive – I took the call in my office.|
(I accepted/received the call in my office. This is more active, I decided where to accept the call.)
|get verb – receive/obtain – I’ll get the money somehow.|
(I am determined to obtain the money.)
|take verb – accept/receive – If he takes my advice I think he will be okay.|
(If he accepts my advice he won’t have any problems.)
Some of my English students in Japan have had trouble with the verbs GET and TAKE. I get questions like:
Which sentence is correct? OR Which sentence is more natural?
- I got a call from Gary this morning.
- I took a call from Gary this morning.
It’s a good question, and I had to think about it the first time I was asked!
Here is a basic difference:
GET is used when another person (or thing) GIVES you something. This is more passive. Someone IS GIVEN something.
I got a call from Gary this morning. = Gary gave me a call this morning. This is passive, I just received the call. (GET usually requires a second person or thing to GIVE you something.)
TAKE doesn’t always need another person (or thing). Something can be TAKEN by a single person in the sentence.
The sentence I took a call from Gary this morning. is not natural. We can improve it.
I took the call in my office. This sentence is better (more natural) and it means – I accepted/received the call in my office. This is more active, I decided where to accept the call. (I am also the only person in this sentence.)
Let’s look at another example:
- There is a new Italian restaurant near my office. I got a flyer this morning. The restaurant looks good.
– This sentence is passive, we don’t know HOW I received the flyer, maybe someone gave it to me, or maybe it came in the mail. We only know that I have it, I received it.
I GOT a flyer. – Compare
- There is a new Italian restaurant near my office. I took a flyer this morning from the front door. The restaurant looks good.
– This sentence has an active feeling, we know HOW I received the flyer and we know what I DID to receive it. I took it from the front door. The flyers were offered and I accepted one.
I TOOK a flyer.
Take can sometimes have a negative feeling
You can TAKE something that is offered to you, like a flyer, some food, etc. This is to accept something. BUT…
If you remove something that is NOT offered to you we still use the verb TAKE, but the meaning is negative. This can mean stealing:
- “Someone took my bicycle from the park.” (Someone stole my bike.)
Or it can be a mistake:
- “I left the house in a rush this morning and I took my wife’s keys by accident.” (I grabbed my wife’s keys by mistake.)
- “I got $20 from my Dad for helping him clean the garage.” My Dad gave me the money.
- “I took $20 from my Dad’s wallet.” I stole $20 from my Dad. I removed $20 without permission.
get verb – receive/obtain – I’ll get the money somehow.
(I am determined to obtain the money.)
take verb – accept/receive – If he takes my advice I think he will be okay.
(If he accepts/receives my advice he won’t have any problems.)
Both of the sentences from the second version are about receiving something, receiving money, and receiving advice, but the difference is in the definitions – obtain and accept.
Obtain the money – I will make an effort to get the money. I must do something to receive the money. – I wouldn’t say: “I will make an effort to
take the money.” This use of take is more like steal. (steal is to receive [remove] something without permission) It doesn’t fit our sentence.
Accept the advice – He should willingly take my advice. The advice is being offered to him and he should accept it. We wouldn’t say “If he
gets my advice I think he will be okay.” This use of get is more like understand. It doesn’t really fit our sentence.
*NOTE – Obtain means make an effort, but GET is still passive.
I work hard at my job, I make an effort, and then the company GIVES me a paycheck. (Passive)
I don’t TAKE the paycheck.
I study hard at school for many years (effort) and then the school GIVES me a diploma. (Passive)
I don’t TAKE the diploma.
These words can be confusing, but this post will help you easily understand these verbs. Keep reading for clear definitions with lots of natural examples. Use the audio too.
Get vs Take Definitions (to receive)
One of my favorite online dictionaries is Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. I use this site all the time when I work with my English students here in Japan.
Oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com lists 27 meanings for GET and 43 for TAKE. That’s a lot of ways to use these words! Don’t worry, some meanings are not so common, and some are very similar in meaning. I’ll introduce a few of the common meanings for you later in this post with examples. Examples will help you understand the meanings easily.
The best way to acquire a language is to learn complete sentences. The following guide will show you how these verbs are used with natural examples. This will make them easy to understand. Listening to complete sentences is also really great!
To begin I want to teach you 2 similar meanings that can be confusing.
get verb – receive/obtain [Definitions and examples from HERE]
to receive something “I got a call from Gary this morning.”
Infinitive – TO GET
- It’s the best way to get a sense of what’s actually going on here. (To get a sense of something is to find out or receive an understanding of a situation.)
Present simple – GET
- I get the impression that he is bored with his job. (I get the impression means that I think, or feel that he is bored with his job.)
- Where did you get the idea from? (How did you receive the idea?)
- What did you get for your birthday? (What presents did you receive for your birthday?)
Present simple Third-person singular – GETS
- He gets about $40 000 a year. (He receives about $40 000 dollars a year from his job.)
- This room gets very little sunshine. (The room doesn’t receive much sunshine.)
Past simple – GOT
- I got a call from Gary this morning. (I received a call from Gary this morning.)
- I got a shock when I saw the bill. (I received a shock when I saw the bill.)
Past participle – GOTTEN
- I haven’t gotten a chance to call him back yet. (To get a chance means to have time.)
[Haven’t gotten is the perfect tense. HAVE + the past participle. Learn more about perfect tense grammar HERE]
Continuous tense – GETTING
- It seems like Ted is getting special treatment from the boss. (Ted may be receiving special treatment at work.)
to obtain something
[Obtain and get are synonyms – To obtain something is to get something, especially by making an effort]
Infinitive – TO GET
- Try to get some sleep. (Try to obtain some sleep.)
- She opened the door wider to get a better look. (She opened the door to obtain a better view.)
- I think someone’s trying to get your attention. (Someone wants to obtain or capture your attention so you will notice them.)
Present simple – GET
I’ll get the money somehow. (I am determined to obtain the money.)
Present simple Third-person singular – GETS
- You can trust Cathy, she always gets results. (Cathy is successful, she obtains success.)
Past simple – GOT
- He just got a new job. (He just obtained a new job.)
Past participle – GOTTEN
- I’ve gotten some helpful information from their website. (I have obtained good information from their website.)
These uses of GET, receive and obtain, are both transitive verbs.
A transitive verb is used with a direct object.
- He gets about $40 000 a year. – about $40 000 is the direct object of the verb GETS.
- He just got a new job. – a new job is the direct object of the verb GOT.
[Learn more about Transitive verbs HERE]
These meanings of GET are not used in the passive voice.
TO BE gotten Get already has a passive feeling.
[Learn more about the Passive voice HERE]
take verb – accept/receive [Definitions and examples from HERE]
to accept or receive something “Gary called me at work. I took the call in my office for privacy.”
Infinitive – TO TAKE
- No one wants to take responsibility for this project. (Nobody wants to accept responsibility for this project.)
Present simple – TAKE
- If they offer me the job, I’ll take it. (I will accept the job if they want to give it to me.)
- I’ll take the call in my office. (I will accept the call in my office.)
Present simple Third-person singular – TAKES
- If he takes my advice he will be okay I think. (If he accepts my advice he won’t have any problems.)
Past simple – TOOK
- The store took (= sold goods worth) $100 000 last week. (The store accepted $100 000 from customers in exchange for goods.)
Past participle – TAKEN
- I have taken full responsibility for what happened today. It was my fault. (I have accepted responsibility for my actions.)
Continuous tense – TAKING
- She was accused of taking bribes. (She was accused of accepting bribes.)
How to use GET and TAKE
12 More common uses
As I said above there are many different ways to use these verbs. Here are a few more common uses.
to buy something
- Where did you get that jacket? (Where did you buy that jacket?)
- I got tickets for the concert. (I bought tickets for the concert.)
- I will stop by the store after work and get some groceries. (I will stop by the store and buy some groceries.)
We can get something for somebody OR for a price.
- Did you get a present for your mother? (Did you buy a present to give to your mother?)
- You can get yourself the basic model for $100. (You can buy the basic model. The price is $100.)
to go to a place and bring somebody/something back
- I spilled my coffee. Quick, get a cloth! (Go [somewhere] and bring a cloth back. [to here])
- Somebody get a doctor! (Someone please go [somewhere] and bring a doctor back. [to here])
- She went to get help. (She went [somewhere] find help and bring it back.)
- I have to go and get my mother from the airport. (I must go to the airport to collect my mom and bring her back home.)
- Could you get me a drink, please? (Please bring a drink back for me.)
to start to develop an illness; to suffer from pain, etc.
- I got this cold off you! (I developed this cold from you.)
- Mike gets a headache if he doesn’t have a cup of coffee every day. (Mike suffers a headache if he doesn’t have enough coffee.)
- I think I’m getting a cold. (I think a cold is developing in my body. I have a runny nose and a sore throat.)
to understand somebody/something
- She didn’t get the joke. (She didn’t understand the joke.)
- I don’t get it—why would she do a thing like that? (I don’t understand why she would do that.)
More variations on the accept/receive definition
to act in response to an opportunity
- When the bus stopped for fuel, we took the opportunity to get something to eat. (While the bus stopped we received a chance to buy and eat some food.)
- He isn’t afraid to take risks. (He is willing to accept risks, he is not scared of taking chances.)
- Take the initiative and fill your life with exciting experiences. (Accept the power to take action on your own. Don’t wait to be told to do something or wait for others to do it first.)
to accept somebody as a customer, patient, etc.
- The school doesn’t take boys. (This is a girl’s school, they don’t accept male students.)
- The dentist can’t take any new patients. (The dentist is too busy to accept new patients in his clinic.)
to experience or be affected by something
- Can the ropes take the strain? (Can the ropes accept the strain and not break?)
- The team took a terrible beating. (The team lost the game and received a bad beating. For example, they lost by many points.)
to be able to bear something (endure a difficult situation)
- She can’t take criticism. (She is not able to endure or accept people’s critical opinions.)
- I don’t think I can take much more of this heat. (I can’t bear this heat. It’s too hot for me to handle!)
- The new teacher wasn’t going to take any nonsense. (The new teacher was not going to accept any bad behavior from the class.)
to react to something/somebody in a particular way
take something/somebody + adv./prep.
- These threats are not to be taken lightly. (We need to accept that these threats are serious.)
- I wish you’d take me seriously. (I wish you would react to me in a serious way.)
Other uses for the verb TAKE
to carry or move something from one place to another
- Remember to take your coat when you leave. (Don’t forget to carry your coat from here to where you are going.)
- Can you take my suit to the dry-cleaners? (Can you carry my suit to the dry-cleaners?)
- You need to take your laptop to the repair shop. (You must carry your computer to the shop.)
to go with somebody from one place to another, especially to guide or lead them
- It’s too far to walk—I’ll take you by car. (I will drive you to where you are going.)
- A boy took us to our room. (A boy guided us to our room.)
- I’m taking the kids swimming later. (I will go with the kids to the pool later.)
- The boys were taken to see their grandparents most weekends. (The boys went to see their grandparents almost every weekend. Someone took them there. [were taken is the passive voice])
to need or require a particular amount of time
- The journey to the airport takes about half an hour.
- It takes about half an hour to get to the airport. (The trip to the airport requires half an hour.)
- That cut is taking a long time to heal. (The cut is requiring a large amount of time to heal.)
- Please fill out this form, it should only take you five minutes. (You should only need five minutes to complete this form.)
- It’ll take time (= take a long time) for her to recover from the illness. (She will not be back to normal for a long time due to this illness.)
to put your hands or arms around somebody/something and hold them/it; to reach for somebody/something and hold them/it
- I passed him the rope and he took it. (He held the rope after I passed it to him.)
- Free newspapers: please take one. (Please grab a newspaper and bring it with you. It’s yours now.)
- Can you take (= hold) the baby for a moment? (Hold the baby in your arms for a moment.)
- He took her hand/took her by the hand. (= held her hand, for example to lead her somewhere)
to remove something without permission or by mistake
- Someone has taken my scarf. (Someone has removed my scarf without permission.)
- Did the burglars take anything valuable? (Did the burglars remove anything valuable from your house?)
Get vs. Take FAQs
What’s the past participle of Take?
Take is an irregular verb. The past tense is took and the past participle is taken.
The past participle taken will be used with the verb have or to be
- Marcel has taken the entrance exam twice.
- The 3 students were taken to the principal’s office.
What’s the past participle of Get?
Get is an irregular verb. The past tense is got and there are two past participles. In the U.K., got is used as the past participle, but in North America, the past participle is usually spoken as gotten.
|get||got||got (The U.K.)|
|get||got||gotten (North America)|
The past participle got/gotten will be used with the verb have.
- I haven’t got much sleep this week. (the U.K.)
- I haven’t gotten much sleep this week. (North America)
- Brady has got taller since the last time I saw him. (the U.K.)
- Brady has gotten taller since the last time I saw him. (North America)
The difference between GET and GOT
Got is the past tense of get but got and get are often used the same way or they can sometimes mean the same thing. In casual English conversation, “I get it” and “I got it” can both be used to show that we understand something.
We often use these expressions when we understand a message that was given to us.
- “Stop at the store on my way home and buy some milk and eggs. Got it.” – I understand what you’re asking me.
Or when we finally understand an idea after some explanation.
- “Oh, the butler was the killer all along. Now I get it.” – I understand what’s happening in the movie now.
It’s quite common to use “got it?” to ask someone if they understand the important instructions you just gave them.
- I want you on your best behavior tomorrow when your grandparents are here. Got it?
Both of these examples are showing that we understand something well.
I got it can also be used to express our confidence that we can handle something.
- A: Tomorrow’s meeting with the shareholders is very important. The presentation has to be great.
B: Don’t worry about the presentation boss, I got it.
– B is confident that he can make a great presentation for the meeting.
I get it or I get that can also be used to show that you empathize with someone, you understand what they are going through.
- You’re angry with me and I get it, but things will never get better if we don’t sit down and talk about it calmly.
- You are disappointed to not get the promotion, I get that. Let’s think about what we can do moving forward to showcase how important you are to the company.
GET and TAKE – Conclusion
Thanks for reading this blog post. Was it helpful? I included lots of examples and versions of these 2 verbs but there are MORE! Keep studying and keep learning full sentences. As you read this post and learn how to use GET and TAKE you are also using articles (A, An, and The), prepositions (In, Of, To, From etc.), adverbs (Before, Yet, About, etc.), and more. My blog will improve your English in ways that you don’t even know! This is my dream, thank you for being part of it and I hope you have an awesome day!
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