I have always thought it means someone did something for you but recently i came across this structure can mean that you did some thing yourself. What do you reckon

Eg i got the task complete/completed
I got the door open/opened
I got the house cleaned
I got the fence painted

  • What's a "fene"? Do you mean "fence"?
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 4:29
  • Also, what's your question, exactly? Are you asking if your example sentences mean that you got something done yourself, rather than got someone else to do it?
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 4:30
  • Yes i mean fence. I am asking whether my sentences are referring to the actions which are done by myself or rather got someone else to do it? Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 5:00

2 Answers 2


All of the example sentences you give could mean you did the work yourself, and two of them can only mean you did the work yourself, BUT the structure you give in the title is not the structure of those sentences.

The structure in the title, [ Subject + "get" + object + past participle ], is called causative, and it always means someone else did the work at your request.

The structure of the example sentences you give is actually, [ Subject + "get" + object + adjective ]. We can show this is true because you correctly use the words "open" and "complete", which are never past participles in that context, only adjectives.

The function of this structure is something like, "cause object to become adjective", or "get object to be adjective".

The two structures sometimes look identical because some adjectives are spelled and pronounced the same as a past participle, like "finished" or "painted". So, your example sentence, "I got the fence painted" is ambiguous. It could have the meaning, "I paid someone else to paint the fence", or "I completed the job of painting the fence", depending on whether "painted" is intended as an action verb that someone else performed, or an adjective describing the state of the fence. Out of context, a native speaker would not know which had happened.

  • It's also worth noting that with this adjective structure, while any adjective is correct, not all are idiomatic. For example, "I got the house clean" is idiomatic while, "I got the house beautiful" is not idiomatic. Both are grammatically correct. I haven't been able to suss out the reasons, so leaving this in a comment rather than my answer
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:40
  • Add the linking verb looking and the sentence suddenly becomes idiomatic, e.g. “I got/had the house looking new/perfect/beautiful/spick and span in next to no time.”
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:47
  • @Mari-LouA True. I can't come up with a rule-based reason for it. What category do "clean" and "looking beautiful" belong to that "beautiful" does not?
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:51
  • I think it's because clean can also be verb, like completed, open and opened can also be adjectives. "He got them to complete/ clean/open + it.” ...I got it opened/cleaned/completed... But "I got it new" has a different meaning from "I got it looking (as if) new."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:57
  • @Mari-LouA I thought of that, but I found counterexamples, and things that should be identical, but don't act the same. (1) "spic and span" works and has no verbal form. (2) While, "I got the sand fine" is not idiomatic, this is: "I got the sand fine enough to clump like powder." (3) "I got the house bright" is not idiomatic, even though "I got the knife sharp" is idiomatic, and both have "-en" form verbs with the same function. This last one leads me to believe whatever rule governs what's idiomatic is granular.
    – gotube
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 18:22

I am in slight disagreement with gotube’s answer despite having upvoted it myself as a good answer.

First, I disagree that saying “finished” is one of two different words identical in spelling and writing. I think that is pedagogically confusing. I think it would better to say something like

participles are words that are built from a root verb and that may be used as part of a verb phrase, or as an adjective, or, in the case of the present participle, as a noun.

In other words, it is more helpful to students to learn that participles have multiple grammatical functions than to insist that a gerund is a different word than a participle.

Second, the use of “get” in the causative sense is always unnecessary and ambiguous. It is clearer to use the causative “have.”

I got the house cleaned

may mean that I myself cleaned the house (can you hear my wife laughing hysterically) or that I arranged for someone else to do that cleaning and that cleaning was done.

I had the house cleaned

means only the second of those alternatives.

These are minor supplements to gotube’s answer, which, as I said, I upvoted.

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