2

If I rephrase the following sentences:

#1 After a time you get to realize that these things don't matter.

#2 You'll like her once you get to know her.

#3 His drinking is getting to be a problem.

#4 She's getting to be an old lady now.

into:

#1' After a time you will realize that these things don't matter.

#2' You'll like her once you know her.

#3' His drinking is becoming a problem.

#4' She's becoming an old lady now.

Is there subtle difference in meaning?

2

The main effect of using "get to" in this context is to soften the expression.

For example: in your last example, I would suggest the actual "translation" is not

She is becoming an old lady now.

but:

She is an old lady now.

This is a very blunt statement, so it is softened with:

She is getting to be an old lady now.

to avoid sounding rude. Similarly, talking about someone's drinking problem is a sensitive subject; your "translation" sounds a lot blunter than the "getting to" variant. For example, I would expect to hear:

Jones is your responsibility. His drinking is becoming a problem. I expect you to handle it.

but

Mrs. Jones, we need to talk about your husband. His drinking is getting to be a problem.

There is also an element of regional dialect, especially in your first example. As a native speaker of Mid-Atlantic American English, I would be more likely say "start to realize" or "come to realize." "Get to realize" to me suggests regional influence (probably from the American South) and informality. I would not suggest using it in a formal or professional context.

  • Thx. If I replace "come to realize/know" with "realize/know" in my first two examples, will they sound awkward? Will they have different meaning from the original ones? @chapka – Kinzle B Apr 17 '14 at 15:28
1

I'll go through them in order.

1: 'Getting to realise' isn't really the right English for this context. What you've said is correct, but there is a subtle difference between the two:

The first phrase speaks generally, in the present tense. You've replaced it with the future tense, which changes the meaning very slightly. To maintain the identical meaning, I would say 'After a time you come to realise...'.

2: 'Getting to know someone' is a common phrase in English and I wouldn't bother replacing it given the choice. Your change is almost identical in meaning, but there is an even more subtle difference between the two:

'Getting to know someone' implies you've met them once or twice, but will warm to them once you've seen them a bit more. So, add those three words to get an identical meaning: 'You'll like her once you know her a bit more.'

3 & 4: You're spot on using the verb 'to become' here. The meanings are, as far as I can tell, identical.

  • I agree with you about everything, though I do wonder a bit about #4. Is it becoming an old lady, or starting to become an old lady? I don't quite have a sense for this, but I think might be either of those... What do you think? – Alicja Z Mar 31 '14 at 23:48
  • The most common way to say it is simply 'she's getting older', but if you can't use 'get' the best verb to substitute in is 'become'. "Starting to become" is a bit wordy in this context. – MMJZ Apr 1 '14 at 9:00
  • True - but I was getting at the underlying meaning, not the best way to rephrase that meaning. – Alicja Z Apr 1 '14 at 9:03

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