To me, all the three choices:

  1. Overcome
  2. Get over
  3. Get the better of

mean so much the close things that can be often used interchangeably (at least in my two made up examples below.)

I would appreciate it if you let me know if I'm right or wrong and why:

1- He felt a really destitute person several years ago. He was flat broke and lost his house, car and even his job. I remember, once when we were talking, he mentioned some stuff that I felt he truly hit rock bottom and felt really sorry for him. But fortunately, he managed to ..................; he found a good job, a reasonable girl to marry; after a couple of years, he purchased a house and now, everything is alright with him.

a. overcome his life's difficulties
b. come over his life's difficulties
c. get the better of his life's difficulties

2- You must be much stronger than what you are now. As a man, one day you have to be a reliable father and a man whom a woman can lean on. I know your girlfriend has dumped you; but don't let your emotions ......................... You must focus on your golas and value your time and energy. (Said a father to his son.)

a. overcome you
b. come over you
c. get the better of you

Please kindly enlighten me. Thank you.


I have heard many times some sentences like:

  • Try and overcome / get over your pride.
  • Get the better of your emotions.

That was why I thought I could swap them without any particular change in meaning. But I needed to inquire it.



In your example one you could choose to use any of "overcome his life's difficulties" or "get over his life's difficulties" (You actually suggested something else, "come over his life's difficulties" which you have since clarified as a typo). Your option c, "get the the better of his life's difficulties" would be understood, but to some speakers will seem awkward. That is because there is an implication that you get the better of a person, not a thing.

In your example two, you could chose to use "overcome you" or "get the better of you". You could not say "get over you". For some speakers "overcome you" would seem awkward. It's common to say that we are overcome by our emotions (passive voice) but not that our emotions overcome us (active voice). Instead we would say our emotions overwhelm us.

Further information:

There are some differences in meaning, but there are also lots of similarities which you have observed. In the explanation I refer to 'animate' (thinking) and 'inanimate' (non-thinking) entities. (This comes from the latin word animus meaning mind or soul).

Overcome is normally used to indicate a person (or people) actively combatting an obstruction which could be inanimate (a 'thing') or animate (a person). So in your example 1 a this works, but it does not sound natural in 1 b. Instead we would normally use overwhelm when an inanimate 'problem' proves to be too big to be overcome.

For example:

Don't let your emotions overwhlem you.

The waves overwhelmed their boat.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:


Succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty)

Defeat (an opponent)

(of a feeling or emotion) overpower or overwhelm.

Get over (in the context of getting over a difficulty) is normally used to indicate that the person is no longer being troubled by that difficulty and that it is now in the past. So you could use this in your example 1 "he managed to get over his life's difficulties" (but you don't actually have this as an option). You would not use it in example 2 unless you make the emotions the difficulty that is being 'got over' rather than have them doing the 'getting over'.

So you could say "I know your girlfriend has dumped you but you need to get over her" or you could say "get over it" (meaning the dumping).

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Get over

Recover from (an ailment or an upsetting or startling experience)

Overcome (a difficulty).

Get the better of has an implied action against an animate entity (a person) so it is used in context of overcoming a person. So you would not use it in your example one (his life's difficulties are not animate) but you could use it in your example 2 (as it is get the better of you).

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Get the better of

Gain an advantage over or defeat (someone) by superior strength or ability.

(of a feeling or urge) be too strong to conceal or resist.

You used 'Come over' in your example sentences. Come over has a different meaning. It can be used in regard to location as in "Please come over here" but also indicates feelings or perception.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Come over

(of a feeling or manner) begin to affect (someone)

informal with complement (of a person) suddenly start to feel a specified way.

Change to another side or point of view.

| improve this answer | |
  • Sorry @Rob Lambden, but unfortunately, despite all you efforts clarifying the matter, it couldn't come out to be helpful to me, while it was all over the map. – A-friend Aug 22 '19 at 5:50
  • I'm not sure I understand what you mean by 'all over the map'? I tried to pick out the differences in meaning and give illustrations, and fall back to your examples. What do you need to help you to understand? – Lifelong Learner Aug 22 '19 at 13:56
  • Well @Rob Lambden, providing me with the correct and incorrect options in each example and letting me know about the reasons why they don't work illustrating with some examples seem to be exactly what I need. – A-friend Aug 22 '19 at 14:09
  • 1
    I would expect people to recognise Overcome as an active verb. So to overcome something you must do the overcoming. However Get Over can simply be to put a problem in the past - we might say "It took him years to get over his last girlfriend". There is no sense of action here, simply the passage of time. If we said "It took him years to overcome his last girlfriend" it would mean something very different, and would sound very odd indeed. So usually you could use get over instead of overcome - toning down the meaning - but it's not safe to assume you can use overcome instead of get over. – Lifelong Learner Aug 22 '19 at 15:19
  • 1
    @A-friend yes, these two phrases would be understood to mean the same thing. – Lifelong Learner Aug 22 '19 at 15:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.