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I know we can say "I got hungry/tired/scared/etc." meaning "I became hungry/tired/scared". I was wondering if the following sentence sounds as natural: "I got starving while I was passing by that pizza place" I have a feeling that it sounds a bit uncommon. Am I right?

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    "got starving" is unnatural in AmE.
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:16
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    We use starving colloquially to mean 'very hungry' rather than 'dying for lack of food', but we don't normally speak of 'getting hungry/starving' suddenly as a result of smelling food. It would be more natural to say "I suddenly felt hungry" or "I realised how hungry I was". Nov 29, 2023 at 15:19

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Yup, you're right. While we might use "I am hungry" and "I got hungry" in parallel, I can't think of an "-ing" word for which we would use "I got." I guess that's because these "-ing words" are in "sort of adjectives" and "sort of verbs." If I say "I am walking," then I'm clearly using a present progressive verb. If I say "I am starving," then I'm usually using it in a way that simply describes my state rather than my actions—I'm using it the same as "I am hungry." (Unless I literally mean that I'm dying of malnutrition!) And I guess that's why these "I am ___-ing" constructions don't work with "I became" even when they're usually used in an adjectival role, because they're showing their present-progressive-verb roots, and you don't "become doing something."

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  • I can think of two "-ing" word for which I would use "I got": I got moving, I got going. These seem to use got to mean started, rather than became, and in such usage resemble the construction, I got to thinking. I wonder why moving and doing don't require the to.
    – Juhasz
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:17
  • @Juhasz Yes, I was trying to think of something like that and could not. Good for you! :) Yes, there get means start.
    – Lambie
    Nov 30, 2023 at 16:33
  • @Juhasz Yeah, right after posting I thought of "get cracking." So we have several idiomatic constructions that all seem to be about initiating activity, and as you say, I think we can dismiss them as a different usage of "get," a contraction of "get to." Nov 30, 2023 at 16:47
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to be starving in colloquial English means to be very hungry. It's used in BrE and AmE. There is also: to be famished, which also means very hungry, which is not particularly colloquial but is very idiomatic.

I realized that I was starving when we passed the pizza place.

I guess Little Johnny had not had breakfast and was starving when he stuffed down that huge sandwich.

That said, get starving is not accurate. Get tired, get thirsty, get hungry, are all standard.

get in those means to become, and you can't "become starving".

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