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I'm uploading a picture here because I cannot provide the link of the article. It's a tweet wherein the poster has to write a tweet manually. The main article does not have the sentence in concern.

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I want to learn why...

Will this window really be smashed

and not

Will this window really get smashed

My understanding:

Using 'be' there talks about whether the glass is tough enough to bear the stroke of that thick stick. In an example, I can express

Can it be broken? ~ No, it cannot. It is a 30-mm thick glass

But then using get clearly asks us to guess whether the event of glass breaking really happened!

Will this window really get smashed ~ Yes, nobody could stop that mask man. It really got smashed.

In short, it's being (capability) over getting (happening).

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  • I want it. I want to get it done. Will it get done by me? I do it. It got done halfway now. I do it some more. Will it be done? I keep doing it. Finally, I got it done. It got done. It was done. It is done, and I succeed. Nov 26 '14 at 11:16
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    be smashed describes the end state of the window; get smashed describes the action. They both result in broken glass on the sidewalk, but the first focuses on the object while the second focuses more on the action.
    – J.R.
    Nov 26 '14 at 11:17
  • @J.R. Very interesting! Does this hold with "He got caught by the police"? Or is true only for future tense statements? "You will get caught by the police" (emphasis on action) ? vs. "You will be caught" (emphasis on result)? Nov 26 '14 at 11:21
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    @J.R. truly informative. I'd be happy having it as an answer. This clarifies.
    – Maulik V
    Nov 26 '14 at 11:27
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    @Copper - In a way, yes. "You will be caught" conjures an image of a man in the cell. "You will get caught" conjures an image of a man getting handcuffed. Don't overanalyze it, though – the difference is subtle and we don't usually give it much thought. :^)
    – J.R.
    Nov 26 '14 at 11:27
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Will this window really be smashed

This is just a passive construction: BE + Past Participle. I don't think that the use of this construction places a special emphasis on the toughness of the glass. Maybe the guy wielding a stick will have second thoughts and will not smash the glass.

Will this window really get smashed

Is also a passive construction, but more informal. This construction is used in sentences like

He guy that smashed the glass got caught by the police.

The structure with be tends to be used to refer to more deliberate, planned actions. Compared with the get structure, it is more often used with an agent mentioned:

Will this window be smashed by this man?

The structure with get puts a greater emphasis on the subject's condition, and is less often used with an expressly mentioned agent. It doesn't need an agent in the way be + Past Participle needs it.

Imagine you've overheard a sentence said by a policeman to another policeman as you were passing by:

The window was broken.

You might reconstruct their conversation thus:

We came to the shop long after the riot. The streets were empty. I had no trouble entering the shop. The window was broken.

On the other hand, he might've been saying:

We came to the shop in the midst of the riot. A man was wielding a stick. We couldn't stop him. The window was broken.

See? Was broken needs an agent ("broken by a man") to be less ambiguous.

But with the overheard passage sounding like:

.. The window got broken.

There's less ambiguity: we know he refers to the process of breaking.


Reference: Michael Swan, Practical English Usage, Unit 223.5 ('Get' as passive auxiliary);
Quirk et al., "A Comprehensive Grammar..", Unit 3.66 (The passive auxiliaries: be and get)

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