It's no secret that get is one of the most commonly used verbs in the English language, and that it has many idiomatic uses. In this blog post, I will explain 5 common English idioms that use the verb get. Why wait? Let's get our hands dirty!
(All of these idioms can be found in 200 Practical English Idioms.)
1. Get one's hands dirty
to do a (usually hard, manual, or undesirable) job; to become involved in dishonest or criminal activity
“He’s a lazy boss. He never wants to get his hands dirty.”
“They did a poor job, so now I have to get my hands dirty and do it properly.”
“If you want to work in construction, you have to be ready to get your hands dirty."
"You're in prison because you decided to get your hands dirty."
If you get your hands dirty, you do a job. This job is often difficult, unpleasant, or something other people don't want to do. Sometimes, you have to get your hands dirty because other people don't know how to do something, or because you're the only one who can do the job properly despite it not being your responsibility. This idiom can also refer to committing a criminal or dishonest act. Before, your hands were clean, but after doing something wrong, your hands become dirty.
Practice: When was the last time you had to get your hands dirty because you were the only one who could do something? (Ex: "I had to get my hands dirty when our family car stopped in the middle of the highway and I had to change a flat tire.")
2. Get a taste of one's own medicine
to experience the same bad things that one has done to others; to be mistreated in the same way that one mistreated others
“She got a taste of her own medicine when her boyfriend started criticizing everything about her.”
“You stole from me, so now I’m stealing from you. How does it feel to get a taste of your own medicine?”
“You think humiliating others in public is funny? You’re about to get a taste of your own medicine.”
"If you're not careful, you're going to get a taste of your own medicine."
If you get a taste of your own medicine, you experience the same bad effects that others experienced because of you. For instance, if you always unfairly criticize others, and one day someone criticizes you and makes you feel bad about yourself, you get (or receive) a taste of your own medicine. You can also give someone a taste of their own medicine.
Practice: Have you ever treated someone poorly and then got a taste of your own medicine? (Ex: "I got a taste of my own medicine when my girlfriend went on a one-week vacation without telling me.")
3. Get a second wind
to get a second wave of energy after a period of fatigue; to feel renewed energy after feeling tired (common variation: “catch a second wind”)
“Pass me the basketball. I’m not done yet. I’m just getting a second wind!”
“This coffee is helping me catch a second wind.”
“I was starting to feel tired, but I got a second wind around 10pm and worked on my laptop until 1am.”
"Keep running. You just need to keep going until you get your second wind."
Your second wind is an unexpected boost in your energy levels after feeling like you had no more energy left. Runners and athletes often get a second (or a third or fourth!) wind during races and competitive matches. If you start working in the morning, and you feel tired after lunch, you can drink a coffee or energy drink to get (or "catch") a second wind. Think of your second wind as fresh air being delivered to your lungs and causing you to feel refreshed and reenergized.
Practice: Do you usually get a second wind at some point during the day? (Ex: "I usually get a second wind in the middle of the afternoon.")
4. Get bent out of shape
to become angry, upset, or anxious about something (common variation: “get all bent out of shape”)
“My personal trainer got bent out of shape when I told him I was changing gyms.”
“I can’t believe you did that!” “Hey, don’t get all bent out of shape about it."
“It’s not a big deal. Why are you getting all bent out of shape?”
“Vera got bent out of shape when I cancelled our dinner plans.”
If someone frustrates you or annoys you, you might respond aggressively. This is the idea behind getting bent out of shape. Your regular shape is calm, but if you become angry or upset about something and don't act in a rational way, you get bent out of shape. Sometimes, anger is productive because it can motivate you to make positive changes in your life. However, you should try not to get bent out of shape over small things.
Practice: Do you ever get bent out of shape because of small things? (Ex: "Sometimes, I get bent out of shape when my roommate leaves his socks on the floor.")
5. Get over something or someone
to recover from an illness or a difficult time, event, etc.; to recover emotionally, and/or move past sad feelings after a significant relationship ends (common variation: “be over something or someone”)
“She’s still not at work today because she’s getting over the flu.”
“I still think about Jen a lot.” “It’s been eight months. You need to get over her.”
“You sound a little tired. Everything okay?” “I’m just getting over a cold.”
“You need to get over this. The accident wasn’t your fault.”
It takes a week or two for most people to get over a cold. It takes much longer for someone to get over their first major relationship, especially if they didn't end it. People can also struggle to get over a traumatic event or shocking news. When we get over something, we accept that it happened, and we are able to move forward with our lives without constantly feeling sad about the thing that upset us. This idiom is commonly used in the continuous, past simple, and future simple forms. Note the examples: "I'm getting over a bad breakup."; "It took me two weeks to get over my Covid symptoms."; "It's not a big deal. You'll get over it."
Practice: How long does it usually take you to get over a cold? (Ex: "It usually takes me _____ day(s)/week(s) to get over a cold.")
I hope you have found these idioms useful. If you would like to learn more idioms, please take a look at my book, 200 Practical English Idioms. Thank you, and until next time, good luck with your studies.