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When do you use get or be in the passive voice?

I have seen both used for passive voice. Sometimes they seem interchangeable and sometimes not. Is there a rule for which one to use?

Examples where both works

I was paid for my work.

I got paid for my work.

Example where got doesn't work

It is believed to be true.

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Regardless of the "formality" or "informality" of its usage, get is often used instead of be in the passive voice.

The principal difference in their usage is that get can be used to express actions and change and is only used with action, not state, verbs, whereas be can be used both with action and state verbs.

Expressing action, the passive with get makes it possible to differentiate between an action and a state if it is not otherwise clear:

The living room window was broken. (a state or an action)

The living room window got broken. (an action)

The passive with be and the agent mentioned also makes the distinction clear:

The living room window was broken by the burglar. (action)

Also, get is often used in the meanings of "to cause something to happen" and "become":

I’ll get your jacket cleaned if you like.

Let’s hope she gets better soon.

In addition, the get passive is also used in certain set expressions, such as "get dressed", "get married", "get lost", etc.

I took a shower and got dressed.

When did they get married?

Have you ever got lost while travelling?

(The source.)

  • I cannot understand why people don't just answer as you did. Simple and to the point, the main point. – Lambie Mar 24 at 18:15
  • @Lambie - Thanks, I'm really flattered, and I like most of your answers very much. – Lamplighter Mar 24 at 18:49
  • "I will soon be \ get done with my work" – Kumar sadhu Apr 3 at 2:43
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The get passive can be a useful way of making clear that the meaning of the construction as a whole involves action or event, rather than a state.

Compare:

They got married.The chair got broken.

with the ambiguous

They were married.The chair was broken.

The latter examples are ambiguous because they can refer to the process of being married or broken, but also to the state of being married or broken

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