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I have noticed that "get gerund" works with some verbs:

I have to get going.

I have to get working on it.

He got thinking about it.

These are not correct

He got cleaning the house.

He got climbing the ladder.

Why is it so? How can I know which ones are applicable?

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  • Your sentences are arbitrarily chosen, and don't meaningfully reflect acceptable / unacceptable usages. For example, suppose Jack fell down the well. Jill might lower a ladder and shout down to him You need to get climbing the ladder before you pass out from breathing the noxious air down there! Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:05
  • The lat two sentences sound unusual to me, too, but apparently they are used by native English speakers. If you want to claim that they are "not correct", then you should provide some support for that statement. (For example, did a grammar book say so?) Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:28
  • @MarcInManhattan It is not that the last two "are used by English speakers"|. That's not how language works. The last two use a colloquialism which this OP may not be aware of.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 22:01
  • @Lambie OK, then I amend it to: ". . . but apparently they are used by some native English speakers colloquially." (I specify "some" because I'm a native English speaker but wouldn't say those sentences.) Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 22:36
  • @MarcInManhattan You still do not understand what I am saying. These are not fixed expressions. It is the use specifically of get + gerund OR get + to+ gerund.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 18:48

2 Answers 2

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I don't know of any rule on this, it is simply accepted as natural for some cases and not others. I fear one must simply learn what verbs can be used in this way.

I would class the "-ing" forms used in this way as present participles, not gerunds, because they are functioning as verbs, not nouns. The form is the same, the meaning is not.

One can always use "started" or "began" or "commenced" in place of this use of "got".

By the way, I would question "got thinking", it doesn't seem very natural to me.

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get means a number of things, on its own and with a gerund. One of its meanings is to begin.

"get doing something" is colloquial speech in AmE, anyway and is the same as:
"get to doing something". He got to cleaning the steps and forgot his worries.
get to doing something is a higher register and not as colloquial, regional or dialectal.

He got cleaning the steps. means: He began to clean the steps.

get going actually means: start going or more idiomatic: start to go somewhere, leave a place get working on it means: start working on it get moving: start moving
He got moving on the project yesterday.

Generally, therefore get + (to) gerund generally means to begin or start something. That is what seems to govern it. So, if it fits with the idea of beginning or starting, it might very well work.

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    "If it fits with the idea of beginning or starting, it might very well work." -> Are you suggesting that OP's last two example sentences are correct? Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:04
  • @MarcInManhattan Yes, they are. I already explained that get + gerund is colloquial. I never get why people repose the question I have already answered.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:05
  • @Lambie I for one find "got cleaning" and "got climbing" not merely colloquial, but not natural. Perhaps others disagree. Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:07
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    @Lambie I entirely agree with you about the meaning of that construction; I only find that it is more idiomatic in some situations than in others. (E.g.: "I have to ascend 1000 steps for my exercsie routine." "Well, then, you better get climbing!" <- Totally fine. "He got climbing the ladder." <- Sounds awkward to me.) Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:33
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    He got climbing the ladder to fix the roof way after our Pappy told 'em to.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 16:38

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