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I need to know the literal meaning of this "I got to go to the party."

Did someone actually go to the party (as in I went to the party) or he had the opportunity of going to the party regardless of the fact whether he went to the party or not?

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    The (rather "slangy") construction to get [to do something] is invariably defined as to have the opportunity to do something / chance of doing it. But it always implies taking up that opportunity (i.e. - actually doing it). Feb 12 at 13:00
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    ...in respect of future actions, note that if a 17-year-old Brit says I get to vote after my next birthday, that very strongly implies he intends to vote when he's eligible. If instead he'd said I will be able to vote... that strong implication of intending to vote wouldn't be there (so the be able to version could reasonably be followed by ...but I doubt if I actually will vote, but that would be "unusual / acceptable" after the get to version). Feb 12 at 13:08
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    I [will] get to vote after his next birthday. It doesn't normally make any difference whether you include that "explicit" future will or not. But if you wanted to emphasise that you were determined to become "enfranchised" as soon as legally possible (by making sure your name was correctly entered on the electoral roll, perhaps), you'd need to include the word will so you could enunciate it with heavy stress to convey the strength of your commitment. Feb 12 at 14:27
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    LIke most "simple present" forms, I get to is not usually used for right now. It is either general/habitual, or future. In If I get to the party in time tomorrow I get to sing a song it's future. It could equally be I'll get to sing a song: English has many ways of expressing future time, and most of them do not involve the modal expression that traditionalists insist on calling the "future tense". In When I manage to get home in time to go to the bar on a Saturday night, I get to sing a song it's timeless.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 12 at 20:20
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    @BilalZafar: Compare 1) I get to sleep easily when I avoid coffee and 2) I get to sleep with my girlfriend when her parents are away. Where in #1 get to sleep just means fall asleep, but in #2 it's get to [do something] - meaning have the chance [to do it]. Feb 13 at 15:12

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The "literal" meaning of the rather "slangy" construction to get [to do something] is to have the opportunity [to do it] - always with the implication of taking up that opportunity (actually doing it).

In respect of future actions, if a 17-year-old Brit says I get to vote after my next birthday, that very strongly implies he intends to vote when he becomes eligible. If instead he'd said I will be able to vote... that strong implication of intending to vote wouldn't be there. So the be able to... version could reasonably be followed by ...but I doubt if I actually will vote, but that would be "unusual / acceptable" after the get to... version.

Note that [to] get [to] often just functions as an "auxiliary" verb in English, with little or no semantic content, so it's actually optional in the following example - which means the same regardless of whether get to is present or not...

1: I [get to] sleep easily when I avoid coffee

But with the "have the opportunity" idiomatic usage being asked about here, it makes a significant difference whether get to is present or not...

2: I [get to] sleep with my girlfriend when her parents are away

In #2 above, including get to forces the implication I am able to... [do something that I want to do]. If those two words aren't present, it's simply a neutral statement about what happens in that situation.

Finally, note that with OP's exact example, got is definitely a Past Tense usage (I was able to go to the party). But there's also the "Present" Tense / Infinitive usage to have [got] to do something, meaning to be obliged to do it. With that usage, auxiliary have is often omitted in casual speech, and go to is often transcribibed as a single word...

3: I gotta go to the party
(I must go to the party - but with the strong implication that I don't actually want to go)

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    Indeed; if you said "I got to go to the party" and your friend asked how it was and you replied that you didn't go, your friend would be very perplexed. Apr 11 at 3:18
  • @FumbleFingers as Colin Fine said earlier that "I get to sleep/get to know/get to understand are states where we are entering into instead of "I am able to" and according to you 'I get to sleep" could be both. Then how about " I get to know/understand". Could these two also be as in "I am able to"? If yes then could "I get to sleep/know/understand" be as in "Will be able to" as well? Apr 11 at 6:28
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    I'm a teacher. Our school has a "Parents' Evening" at the start of each term, so I get to know the parents as well as the pupils - where the highlighted element is syntactically and semantically ambiguous. Only the speaker himself can be sure if there's any allusion to having the opportunity / being able to meet the parents with ...get to know in that exact context. But if we change it to ...get to meet, there's no doubt at all that's what's meant (if it wasn't, the speaker would simply drop the words get to, but he can't do that with get to know). Apr 11 at 11:40

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