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The Phrasal Verb 'Get In' Explained

Updated: May 6

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'get in', with lots of examples in context.

A woman waiting at a train station as her train gets in

Hello and welcome to my website for English learners all about phrasal verbs!


This post is on the phrasal verb 'get in' and the different meanings and uses that it has in English. You may already be familiar with the phrasal verb 'get in', however it might surprise you to learn that it has at least 10 different meanings and uses in English...it certainly surprised me when I was researching it. In this post, I will explain the different ways that it is used by native speakers from arriving somewhere on public transport, to collecting debts and submitting votes. So, without further ado, let's get started Don't forget to leave a comment at the end!


GET IN: KEY INFORMATION  For an explanation of the terms in the table, click here

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

10

Separable?

Sometimes

Past tense forms

Got in / Gotten in - Got in / Gotten in

 
The letters ABC spelled out on a blackboard with books and chalk sticks in the foreground

THE BASICS

The phrasal verb 'get in' is made up of the super common verb 'to get' and the prepositional particle 'in', so let's just take a minute to consider the individual meanings of these words before we move on to the meanings of it as a phrasal verb.


The verb 'to get' is a difficult verb for English learners and teachers alike as it has so many diverse meanings such as 'to become', 'to receive' and 'to understand', among others. The most relevant meaning of 'to get' for this post however is 'to arrive'. Moreover, when used in phrasal verbs, the verb 'to get' can be used to express arrival at a place or in a position, often when there is a difficulty or a process involved.


I don't know how I got home last night!
We finally got to Los Angeles at midnight after several hours' delay.

'In' is an extremely common prepositional particle in English, which normally refers to being on or moving towards the interior of something and this is often reflected in the phrasal verb constructions that it features in. When used as an adjective, 'in' can mean both 'trendy' and, more fittingly for this post, 'at home'.

I knocked on your front door earlier but you weren't in.

Now we've looked at those, let's move on to the meanings of the phrasal verb 'get in'....

 

MEANING 1: To enter inside something

A man getting into a car

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To enter, to go in, to get into

Nouns commonly used with

Car, house, bar, nightclub

Let's start with the first meaning of 'get in', which is to enter inside something, typically a car or a building.

He said goodbye, got in the car and drove away.
Lisa got in the house by climbing through an open window

Aside from these two examples, it can also be used to talk about entering any interior space, particularly when there a process involved or it is complicated in some way.

My cat somehow managed to get in the washing machine. Luckily I found her before I turned it on.
My son was playing hide and seek with his friends and thought it would be a good idea to get in the kitchen cupboard.

DON'T CONFUSE 'GET IN' WITH 'GO IN'

'Get in' is often confused with the phrasal verb 'go in' as both of these broadly mean the same thing, however there are differences in when they are used. Firstly, 'go in' tends to be used for more polite invitations to enter inside somewhere, whilst 'get in' would be used more as a direct command and in most cases would be far less polite. Secondly, 'go in' is used when you can enter somewhere in the normal way without any difficulties, however 'get in' would be used when there is either a difficulty with entering e.g. a locked door or a process involved, which means that it is not simple to enter.


Furthermore, due to the often difficult circumstances of getting in to somewhere, it can often be used when there is an element of force or trickery involved.

I imagine that most of you will also be familiar with the variation 'get into', which is also frequently used by native speakers and is normally interchangeable with 'get in' for this particular meaning. You should note a small difference in usage between the two. As 'get into' specifies both motion and direction, you cannot end a sentence with it as it needs to be followed by a noun or pronoun, whereas it is perfectly possible to end a sentence with 'get in' as it doesn't have to be followed by anything.

I tried to open the door and it was locked so I couldn't get in.
I tried to open the door and it was locked so I couldn't get into the house.

Lastly, whilst 'get in' is mostly used in an intransitive way without a direct object, it is also possible to use it with a direct object. Again, 'get into' could also be used here as an alternative.

Although the potato was big, I was able to get it in my mouth.
Lisa managed to get the baby seat in the car.
The rat was able to get into the pipe and escaped.
 

MEANING 2: To arrive

An airplane landing into an airport

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To arrive, to arrive home, to get to

Separable?

No

As I mentioned earlier in the Basics section of the post, one of the meanings of the verb 'to get' is 'to arrive at a destination' and this second meaning of 'get in' means the same thing, however there are particular circumstances in which is it used.


Firstly, we tend to use 'get in' with forms of public and mass transport, which often run on a timetable. These typically include airplanes, trains and coaches and we use 'get in' to say when these arrive at their destination, in particular when specifying the expected time of arrival.


My train gets in at 3pm later this afternoon. Would you be able to pick me up from the station?
What time does your plane get in tomorrow?
Our bus got in a bit late due to severe congestion on the M25 motorway.

Secondly, 'get in' is often used to specifically to mean 'to arrive home'. In this case, just the words 'get in' are necessary without the word 'home', as this meaning is normally implied and understood from context. Less commonly, this application of 'get in' can be also be used by people to talk about arriving at work. Once again, if the context is clear, then the words 'to work' are not necessary.


I didn't get in until 7pm last night.
What time did you get in this morning?
John got in to work 30 minutes early this morning as there was no traffic.
My manager was really late for work this morning. He didn't get in until 10am and he was late for his first meeting.
 

MEANING 3: To bring something inside

A machine harvesting crops and getting them in

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To bring in, to fetch in

Separable?

Yes

Another meaning of the highly polysemous verb 'to get' is 'to fetch something', as in to go to a place, collect something and bring it back. If this place is outside and we bring the desired item into an interior space, then we can use our third meaning of 'get in', which is 'to bring something inside'.


This usage is quite broad in terms of the different possibilities that there are to use it as it can refer to bringing anything from an outside space into an inside one. For example, in the UK it is possible to have milk delivered to your doorstep overnight by a milkman and so in the morning, you need to the get the milk in from outside your front door. Alternatively, if you have ever worked in a bar or restaurant with an outside terrace, you will often have had to get the empty glasses and plates in once the customers have finished with them.

It looked like it was going to rain, so the farmer decided to get his sheep in to prevent them from getting wet.
Can you go and get the clothes in that are drying in the garden, please.

Furthermore, 'get in' can also be used in a more broad sense to mean to collect or to gather something. Typically, this is collecting debts from people who owe money or gathering crops from fields at harvest time in late summer.

How can farmers can get their crops in more quickly and efficiently at harvest?
It is very important for businesses to get in their debts as quickly as they can to ensure that they have a healthy cashflow.
 

MEANING 4: To be elected

A man collecting a ballot at a polling station

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To win, to be elected

Separable?

No

Politics may not be everyone's favourite subject but it certainly affects all of our lives. This is especially so when it comes to voting and elections and here is where the fourth meaning of ‘get in’ is relevant as it is ‘to be elected in a political vote’.


For this usage, we can refer to a politician, a president, prime minister or a political party and if we say that they 'get in', it means that they have been elected to serve in office.


This application comes from the idea that when a politician or political party is elected, they are then in a position of power, with ‘get’ again giving the idea of arriving in this position.


If the liberal party get in at the next election, I will leave the country.
Do you think the Conservative Party will get in this time around?
When Margaret Thatcher got in in 1979, she promised to deliver change on an enormous scale.
 

MEANING 5: To submit something

A girl posting something into a mailbox

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To send, to submit

Separable?

Yes

Nouns commonly used with

Application, entry, email, report

Staying with the subject of politics and voting, in many countries it is possible for citizens who live in other countries or who are on holiday at the time of the election to submit a postal vote, rather than personally going to a polling station. In this instance, we could implement our fifth meaning of 'get in', which is 'to submit something', and therefore say that you got your vote in by post.


This slightly more informal synonym of 'get in' can be used with anything that you need to submit, normally either by post or email. It tends to be used when there is a deadline for the submission and is therefore found alongside words such as 'by', 'until' and 'before'. Additionally, the extra preposition 'to' is needed when specifying the recipient of the thing being sent.


Get your votes in for the student's union representative election by Friday at 5pm.
If you want to enter to enter the competition, you have until midnight tonight to get your votes in to us.
Lisa is stressing as she has to get her sales report in to the board of directors before midday and she has a lot of work to do on it.
 

MEANING 6: To manage to find time for something

A white clock mounted on a white wall

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To do

Separable?

Yes

The next meaning of 'get in' is an informal one thats means 'to do something within a particular period of time'.


To illustrate this meaning, let's use the example of a mother of a small child. She works from home and for much of the day she is unable to do her work as she has to look after her young son, however when he goes for an afternoon sleep she is then able to get some work in for a few hours until he wakes up again. In other words, whilst the toddler is napping, she has the time to get some work done.


As this usage is commonly used with situations where you need to do something within a time window, before a deadline or at a time when you are very busy doing other things, it is often used in relation to work or jobs that you need to do. However, you could theoretically use it in any situation in which you manage to do something in a set period of time, often that is outside of your control.


Jamie went for a nap, which gave me a chance to get a bit of work in to keep the boss happy.
Despite a busy day of activities, I was able to get some study in for my exam next week.
I have a really busy morning tomorrow, so I don't think I will be able to get a gym workout in as well.

BONUS INFORMATION

This meaning can also be used when you are having a conversation with someone and the other person dominates the conversation, meaning that you are not able to say much. In this instance, you can say that you 'can't get a word in', meaning that you aren't able to say anything as the other person is talking so much. Furthermore, you should know that an idiom also exists for this meaning, which is 'to not get a word in edgeways'.


Poor Helen! She is chatting to Lisa and it doesn't look like she can get a word in!
I love my Grandmother but she talks a lot and often you can't get a word in edgeways when you're having a conversation with her.
 

MEANING 7: To enlist a professional's help

A man shaking hands with a tradesman

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To enlist, to employ, to hire, to call in

Separable?

Yes

At the moment I have a problem with the electrics in my house as one of the fuses has blown and now most of the lights do not turn on. As you can imagine, this is not ideal at night 😡! Anyway, as I do not know much about electricity and I am not an electrician, it is not safe for me to try and resolve the problem myself, so I will need to get an electrician in to do it for me.


This therefore is the seventh meaning of 'get in', which is 'to enlist the help of a professional to do something for you, normally for a cost or fee'.


The professionals that we get in to do work tend to be tradespeople who are hired to resolve a problem or to carry out some maintenance work and these include electricians, plumbers, builders, carpenters and even pest controllers etc.


This is a separable usage of 'get in' and I would say that it tends to be used more commonly in the separable way, with the name of the professional going between 'get' and 'in'.


You won't be able to work from home next Tuesday as we are getting the electricians in to carry out an upgrade to the switchboard.
Lisa found a wasp's nest in her attic and so immediately got a pest control service in to deal with it.
We need to get a plumber in to have a look at this leak as I don't know how to fix it myself.
 

MEANING 8: To buy supplies

A man and woman in a supermarket perusing the vegetables

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

British

Potential synonyms

To buy

Separable?

Yes

Are you the sort of person who enjoys food shopping? I certainly am not, but I must admit that I do like it when it is done, I have bought some supplies and the cupboards are no longer empty. This brings us to the next meaning of 'get in', which is to buy supplies and is primarily a very informal British one.


Although the term 'supplies' is used here to mean something that is needed or wanted in a household, most of this time with this application it refers to food and drink. Although this usage does mean 'to buy, we only tend to use it in certain circumstances. These are when we have run out of something and we need to buy some more and when we do not have enough of something and need to buy the amount that is required to meet our needs.


We have run out bread and milk, so my wife has gone to the shop to get some in.
I'm just going to the supermarket to get some supplies in as the cupboards are empty!
We are hosting a dinner party tonight and we don't have enough cheese or wine, so I will go and get some in now.

BONUS: PUB TALK

In the UK we are very fond of going to the pub with our friends for a drink or two and if you are ever invited along with a group of British people, then there is a usage of 'get in' that you need to know. In British pubs it is very common to have 'rounds', where the members of the group take it in turns to buy drinks for the others. One of the ways to say that you will buy the next round of drinks is to say that you will "get the drinks in". In other words, you will order them. An alternative of this may be "get the beers in", if everyone is drinking beer, which is often the case.


Whose turn is it to get the drinks in?
I'm going to be a bit late arriving at the pub, so get the beers in and I will join you at the table when I get there.
 

MEANING 9: To become friendly with someone

A group of friends making a toast at a baby shower

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American

Both

Potential synonyms

To befriend, to get involved with

Separable?

No

For the next meaning of 'get in', we require the additional preposition 'with', as 'to get in with someone' means to become friendly with someone or a group of people'.


To clarify, although this does mean to make friends with someone, it is not always used in the same way. If you get in with someone or with a group of people, it tends to mean more that you get involved with them and start spending a lot of time with them. It can often be used in a negative way, especially if the people with whom you get in with are a bad influence or not nice people.


A popular expression that exists when someone becomes involved with a perceived bad group of people is 'to get in with the wrong crowd'.


John's daughter has got in with the wrong crowd and her behaviour is terrible.
Roger has managed to get in with his boss at work and is being treated really well as a result.
Amy got in with a great bunch of people in college and still keeps in touch with many of them today.
 

MEANING 10: To participate in a profitable activity

A smiling woman with bank notes falling all around her

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Rare

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To take part, to participate

Separable?

No

We are now at the final meaning in this post, so well done if you have made it this far! This last meaning of 'get in' is to become involved in a profitable activity, or in other words, an activity in which you make a lot of money. Furthermore, this is always an activity that someone else is planning or organising that you can join or become a part of.


For this usage, we require the additional preposition 'on', giving us the construction 'to get in on something'.


Due to the nature of the subject, this is something that you will often hear in reference to investments, money making schemes and business opportunities.


You should get in on this investment opportunity before it becomes too expensive to buy into it.
Phrasal Verb Inc wants to get in on the company alliance.

IDIOM ALERT

Before we finish, I just want to make you aware of an idiom that exists with this usage of get in and that is: 'to get in on the act'.


If you get in on the act, it means that you get involved with an exciting or profitable activity.


Helen has heard about what we are doing and she wants to get in on the act too.
Sam got in on the act just before the company went bankrupt.
 
The words 'THE END' spelled out in yellow tiles on a blue background

We have now reached the end of this post and i hope that you've enjoyed it and have been able to learn something new about the phrasal verb 'get in'.


Now it is YOUR turn. Can you think of a sentence yourself using 'get in'. Write it in the comments section below if you can, or alternatively any comments, suggestions or feedback that you may have....don't be shy!!!


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Also, if you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media. See you next time! James 😊











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