In get started and get lost, why is get followed by the past participle? I don't understand it. Is the past participle an adjective?

  • It's true we say things like [You] [should] get started, but we could also say Get going! in the same situation. Perhaps it would help if you understand get XXXX in such contexts as equivalent to something like You should take action that will get/put you in a condition that could be described as XXXX (where XXXX could be an adjective, past participle, or continuous verb form). Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


In these expressions, "started" and "lost" are not verbs. Get is the verb, (transitive) and it is a command, with the second person understood as the message receiver. But what about the fake verbs? They look like adjectives, as you guessed, but I think they are nouns. Each is a condition, and not a modifier of a noun.

JamesK said earlier these are "fixed idioms" which means they are customary expressions that exist as an ensemble. Such expressions often don't have a literal translation, you must learn them as if they are equivalent to a word. I know some French and Spanish; these languages have plenty of fixed idioms that are untranslatable from their actual wording.

  • So "get dressed" falls into the same category? fixed expression?
    – Dave
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 16:12
  • Yes, "get dressed" is a variation on the expression's form. It says (you) get (assume) the condition "dressed" (being clothed, wearing garments, etc.) Another example might be "Get over it." It says (you) get (acquire) the condition "over it" (has abandoned previous condition).
    – acloudrift
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 13:07

This is sometimes called the "get" passive form.

The normal passive is be + p.p. "The apple was eaten". But in casual use, and particularly when speaking of events that are bad we might use "The apple got eaten."

Some particular expressions use the "get" passive: you have mentioned two of them "get started" and "get lost". You can treat these as fixed idioms.

  • 1
    Also particularly when speaking of events that represent a transition. Thus the difference between The argument was heated and The argument got heated is that only the latter carries the implication that the argument became heated (after having started off more calmly). Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 16:36
  • So who is supposed to start the person who is told to get started? Analysing this as passive does not make sense to me.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 9:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .