Would you please tell me if the following mean the same? if so, which one do native speakers use more?

Get to know VS. come to know

I am sure there is some subtle difference between these.

I am confused a little bit, as my profs. has already told me the following:

Providing your sentence has not agent, you could use get to know that is, some thing like the following, couldn't we?

I heard about it.

  • I guess come to know (something) and get to know (someone) are common uses. A native can suggest if otherwise Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 12:01

2 Answers 2


(At least in the US):

Get to know means to take one's time, make an effort or take special steps to acquaint yourself or familiarize yourself with someone or something:

I think she's interesting. I'd like to get to know her - her likes, dislikes, beliefs, fears, hopes, etc.

Don't you think you should get to know one another before you get married?

Get to know your body and check yourself frequently for any discolorations, bumps, spots, etc. that weren't there before.

New house? Get to know your neighborhood before you allow you children to go out and play.

Come to know on the other hand means to come across information, receive information through happenstance, or eventually learn of something, and implies that there was a process involved:

How did you come to know that he was a spy? (=what series of events led you to this information?)

Halfway through my research, I came to know that no such address ever existed.

How did you come to know your husband? (= what led up to your meeting him for the first time?)

This book will help you come to know God. (=through a process of reading, introspection, prayer, bible study, etc. - a process that will eventually lead to you knowing God).

The nuance of eventuality and process inherent in "come" can also be seen in the verbs: come to find, come to appreciate, come to the realization that, come to accept, etc.

  • Would it be OK to use 'know' alone in your examples?
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 13:06
  • "know" can be used instead of "get to know" in my examples, however it can't effectively replace "come to know" because it doesn't contain the process and eventuality factor.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 13:17
  • Funny enough, I was going to write more or less what you wrote, but then I started thinking about it and contradicting myself, hahaha.
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 13:44
  • Thanks. would you explain the following more? and what is a good synonym for it?Come to know on the other hand means to come across information,
    – nima
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 16:20
  • "come across" means to find or discover something by chance: "I was looking through the member list and I came across your name." Note that it's also used to mean "see" in the expression: You have the most beautiful teeth I've ever come across. (Especially if said by someone who sees a lot of teeth, i.e. a dentist, photographer, etc.).
    – CocoPop
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 16:28

The difference between GET to know and COME to know is basically a matter of register: the version with GET is almost entirely restricted to colloquial registers and the version with COME is almost entirely restricted to formal registers.

In speech, JuliandotNut's distinction between the objects of the two expressions is also largely valid: we rarely speak of “getting to know” anything but people. But when knowledge of a “thing” or a fact or a subject is in play we do not ordinarily speak of “coming to know” it: in speech we generally use other expressions such as “get familiar with” or “find out” or simply “learn”.

  • Both are inchoactive, right?
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 12:45
  • @ZhanlongZheng Yes: they express entering into a state of knowledge. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 12:57
  • In your info on aspect, you didn't meantion inchoactive as a lexical aspect. Is it classified in a different manner?
    – Kinzle B
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 13:04
  • 1
    @ZhanlongZheng (That's -ative, not -active). There are several dozen I didn't mention, because in English they have little or no influence on how verbs interact with other parts of a sentence. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 13:12

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