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The Phrasal Verb 'Get Out' Explained

Updated: Jan 8

An explanation of the different meanings of the English phrasal verb 'get out', with examples and exercises.


A pair of boots in a doorway

Hello and welcome to my blog all about English phrasal verbs. Today we are looking at another phrasal verb with the exceedingly common verb 'to get', namely 'get out'. It is likely that you are already familiar with this phrasal verb as it is frequently used by native speakers and in this post we will look at the various different meanings it has in English, as well as the various expressions in which it plays a starring role. So without further ado, let's get started....


KEY INFORMATION

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

​7

Separable?

Yes

Past forms

Got / gotten out - Got / gotten out

British or American?

Both

For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here

 

THE BASICS

The letters ABCDEFG made out of different coloured plasticine

As a result of its many different meanings and high frequency of use, the verb 'to get' is one of the verbs that causes English learners the most headaches. You only need to listen to a conversation between native speakers for a couple of minutes to realise just how common it is. Luckily, we can forget about most of the meanings for this post as the relevant one for the phrasal verb 'get out' is 'to reach or arrive at a particular place'.


Our prepositional particle 'out' also has many meanings but in this post we will focus on just one, namely 'to move from inside something to outside of it', which leads us nicely to the first meaning of 'get out'.....

 

Meaning 1: To leave an enclosed or inside space


An exit sign

CEFR Language Level

B1 - Intermediate

Usage

Common

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To leave, to vacate, to exit


If you are ever in a situation where an English-speaking person approaches you and tells you to 'get out!', you can be sure that they want you to leave. This is because perhaps the most common meaning of the phrasal verb 'get out' is 'to leave an enclosed or inside space', such as a room, a building or a car (not a train or bus though as we are 'on' those).


When used in this way, 'get out' is more of a literal meaning of the combination of 'get', in the sense of reaching or arriving at a place, and 'out', in the sense of no longer being inside. In other words, to leave somewhere enclosed and end up outside of it.


Just to make things a bit more complicated, the use of 'get out' is not just limited to places that we are physically inside, but can also be used for any nouns with which we use the preposition 'in' without physically being inside them, such as way, road, trouble or debt.


When used in this way, 'get out' tends either to be used in affirmative sentences with a modal verb, such as 'have to' or 'must' or with 'let's' when offering a suggestion. In negative sentences it is used to express when we are not able to leave somewhere or have difficulties leaving it and is often found in collocation with 'can't' or 'couldn't'.


Examples of usage....

I don't think that this place is very safe, let's get out of here. INTENDED MEANING: This place feels dangerous, I think we should leave.
You shouldn't be in here. You need to get out now! INTENDED MEANING: You are not permitted to be in here and you need to leave immediately!
Helen has accidentally locked herself in her bathroom and can't get out. INTENDED MEANING: Helen is trapped in the bathroom and is unable to escape.
The geese refused to get out of the road when the car came. INTENDED MEANING: The geese did not move from the road, causing an obstruction to the car.
You need to follow these steps if you want to get out of debt. INTENDED MEANING: If you want to no longer be in debt, you need to do the following.

Moreover, as you can see from the examples above, 'get out!' is very useful in its imperative form and is therefore used very commonly in certain situations. However, I do think that this imperative form is somewhat negative in nature and can often come across as rude or impolite. Nonetheless, sometimes it is necessary to use it, in order to avoid a problem or dangerous situation arising as no other expression works as well in these situations.


Examples of usage....

Get out of my way! LITERAL MEANING: Move out of my path as you are blocking it.
What are you doing in my house? Get out or I will call the police! INTENDED MEANING: Why are you in my house? Leave now or else the police will be called.
 

Meaning 2: To remove something



CEFR Language Level

B1 - Advanced

​Usage

Common

Separable

Yes

Potential synonyms

To remove, to pull out, to take out

This second meaning is actually very similar to the first meaning and is just a change in perspective from ourselves to something else. In the previous meaning, we talked about leaving or exiting an interior space, however in this second meaning we are removing something else from an interior space i.e. an object or thing which we want to move so that it is no longer inside something.


Whilst the focus of this is often the inside space and the need remove something from it, the focus can also be on the exterior place where we want the transported object to end up, see the examples below:

Can you get the spider out of the bath please?

In the example above the focus is on the inside space (the bath) as the speaker wants it to be free of the object (the spider).


Can you get the ice cream out of the freezer please, I really want some.

Here the focus is more on the exterior place as the the speaker wants the ice cream to be 'out', in order to eat it.


In a grammatical sense, the main difference between this meaning and the previous one is that it is transitive and therefore needs a direct object, which goes between 'get' and 'out'.


As with the first meaning, the same rule applies that we can use 'get something out' with any nouns with which we use 'in'. One exception here is when talking about a stain on clothes or a surface. Although we use the preposition 'on' with a stain, we 'get a stain out'. This is a just another example of the English language forgetting all about logic 🤪...


A "Get Out of Jail Free" card from the board game Monopoly

Furthermore, we can also 'get someone out'. Here, the direct object is a person, in which case it is used to mean either of the following...

  • to help someone who is trapped or stuck in something to escape.

  • to enable someone to escape from somewhere such as prison or captivity.


Examples of usage...

The wine glasses are in that cupboard. Could you get them out for me? INTENDED MEANING: Can you take the wine glasses out of the cupboard as I need them.
I've dropped my wedding ring down the sink and I can't get it out! INTENDED MEANING: My wedding ring has fallen into the sink and I am unable to remove it.
This song is so catchy, I haven't been able to get it out of my head since I heard it this morning. INTENDED MEANING: This song is very catchy, it has been in my head all day and I can't stop thinking about it.
Roger got Helen out of the bathroom by breaking down the locked door. INTENDED MEANING: Roger freed Helen from the bathroom by opening the door with force.

The word 'tips' spelt out using wooden blocks

EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND MORE LIKE A NATIVE

It is also possible to use a reflexive pronoun ('myself, yourself, etc.) as the direct object when talking about physically removing ourselves from an interior space or, perhaps more commonly, from a situation that we are in.


Examples of usage....

I don't know how long it is going to take for me to get myself out of debt. INTENDED MEANING: I don't know how long it will be until I can pay off all my debts and no longer owe any money.
Lisa got herself out of a toxic relationship and is now much happier. INTENDED MEANING: Lisa made the decision to leave a relationship that was bad for her mental health and is now much happier as a result.
 

Meaning 3: To become publicly known



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

Separable

No

Potential synonyms

To publish, to spread, to leak

The next meaning of 'get out' that we will consider means 'to become known'. This is not in the sense of becoming famous, but rather when secret or previously private information becomes known to people.


I think logically this makes sense as we are talking here about private or censored information, which has 'escaped' and is 'out' of its imaginary confinement, meaning that it is now free and available for everyone.


It is very common for this usage of 'get out' to be used with the word 'word' instead of 'information'. Another way that you might come across this usage is in the construction 'it got out that...'. See the below examples.


Examples of usage....

Somehow the secret about Helen's private party has got out and now everybody wants to come. INTENDED MEANING: News about Helen's secret party has become public knowledge and now everyone wants to be there.
We need to keep this from the press. If word gets out about this, it will destroy our reputation. INTENDED MEANING: This must be kept secret. If it becomes publicly known, our reputation will be ruined.
Despite my efforts to keep it quiet, it got out that it was my birthday. INTENDED MEANING: In spite of my efforts to keep it a secret, people still found out that it was my birthday.
 

Meaning 4: To say something



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

Separable

Yes

Potential synonyms

To say, to speak, to spit out, to utter

So, our fourth meaning of 'get out', means 'to say something'. This usage however is limited to when the words that we are trying to say are difficult for some reason. This could be because you are physically unable to say the words due to a medical condition or emotions or could be through stress or worry that you may offend someone or cause an argument.


In spoken English, you are likely to hear this usage in the expressions 'get the words out' or the simpler version 'get it out'.


Examples of usage....

I tried to tell you that I loved you last week but I just couldn't get the words out as I was so scared about your reaction. INTENDED MEANING : I wanted to tell you that I loved you last week but I couldn't say the words as I was so worried about how you would react.


The word 'tips' spelt out using wooden blocks

EXTRA INFORMATION TO SOUND MORE LIKE A NATIVE

If we are ever in a situation where we want someone to give us information that is secret or withheld and the person is unwilling to give it, we can say that 'we are unable to get it out of them'. We only tend to use this expression when the information is not given freely by the person to begin with and so we need to encourage or pressure them to share it with us.


Examples of usage....

The detectives questioned the suspect for six hours about who committed the crime but they were unable to get it out of him. INTENDED MEANING: The detectives spent six hours interrogating the suspect but they could not make him tell them who had committed the crime.
My brother refused to tell me what my parents had got me for my birthday but I got it out of him in the end. INTENDED MEANING: At first my brother would not tell me what birthday presents my parents had bought me but I made him tell me eventually.
 

Meaning 5: To go to places and enjoy yourself


Lots of young people at a dye throwing festival

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Rare

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To go out

This next usage of 'get out' means to leave your house in order to go to places and have enjoyable experiences. It is quite similar to the phrasal verb 'go out', meaning to leave your house and / or socialise with people, however whilst we can use 'go out' to talk about specific times e.g. "I go out every Friday night", we cannot use 'get out' here. The reason being is that 'get out' in this meaning is used to talk in a general way, rather than about specific instances. To use it to talk about specific instances would be understood by a native speaker to be about escaping somewhere, as in the first meaning of this post.


In terms of usage, this meaning of 'get out' mostly tends to be used in negative sentences and sometimes in questions. It has given rise to the common expression "I don't get out much", which is often used in a humorous way when someone is acting awkwardly or strangely in a social situation. Moreover, it is also quite common to add the additional words 'and about', giving us 'to get out and about', which gives the added implication that the person moves around from place to place.


Examples of usage....

Ever since I've had a baby, I've not got out much. INTENDED MEANING: Since my baby was born, I have not been out socialising or enjoying myself.
You need to stop playing computer games and get out and about a bit more! INTENDED MEANING: You should stop playing on your computer and go out, do things and see people.
 

Meaning 6: To avoid a job, duty or task



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper Intermediate

​Usage

Common

Separable?

No

Potential synonyms

To avoid, to shirk

I've purposely left these last two meanings of 'get out' to the end as they both require the additional preposition 'of' to achieve their meaning.


The first of the two means 'to avoid doing a job, duty or task that you are supposed to do'.

This could be work, a social engagement, an event that you have been invited to or an action that you have to carry out. The idea here is that another person wants (or expects) you to do something, but you don't want to, so therefore you need to find an excuse for not doing it.


In this meaning, 'get out of' is either followed by a noun or by the a verb in its gerund ('ing) form.


Examples of usage....

I'm so sorry that I can't come to your party tomorrow. I have an important work meeting and I can't get out of it. INTENDED MEANING: Regrettably I can't attend your party tomorrow as I have a work meeting which I cannot miss.
Is there any way you can get out of going to the the theatre tonight? INTENDED MEANING: Is it at all possible that you can make an excuse and not go to the theatre tonight?
 

Meaning 7: To feel the benefit of something


A wall sign saying "Good Vibes Only" mounted on a plain white wall

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

​Usage

Medium

Separable

Yes

Potential synonyms

To get pleasure from, to take pleasure in, to delight in

This final usage of 'get out' that we will consider also requires the additional preposition 'of' and means to feel the benefit of doing something, or in other words to obtain something good or positive as a result of performing an action. Another way that we could say this is 'to get something out of something'.


More often than not, this refers to a good feeling that we get after performing the action. This pleasurable sensation is sometimes called a 'kick', which gives us the common expression 'to get a kick out of something', meaning to get a good feeling as a consequence of an action.


Examples of usage....

I still do yoga every day because I get a lot out of it. INTENDED MEANING: I continue to practice yoga daily because it makes me feel really good.
My mum volunteers with a charity for elderly people and she really gets a kick out of helping them. INTENDED MEANING: My mum does volunteer work for an old people's charity and the work makes her feel really good.
 

BONUS INFORMATION

The word 'bonus' spelled out using different colour helium balloons being help up by different hands

Before we wrap up this blog post, there are a few very common expressions with 'get out' that I want to cover.....


To get something out of the way - We use this expression when we have to do something unpleasant, boring or stressful in the future and we want it to be over, so that we can stop worrying about it. It could also be used in situations when we are looking forward to something and we want the time to pass quickly between now and then. Examples of this could be when you have a work meeting planned, which you are worried about and you want it to be over so that you can relax. Another would be that you are going on holiday next week, so you just want this week at work to pass quickly.


To get out of hand - If a situation gets out of hand, it means that it has become difficult to control or it has become uncontrollable.


A get-out clause - This is something that is often written into official agreements and contracts with the purpose of allowing someone to get out of doing something if a certain situation occurs. This is often used in business English but has also found its way into colloquial everyday English too.

 

Question marks in different coloured speech bubbles

EXERCISE Re-write the following sentences using 'to get out'....


  1. John was stuck in his car and could not escape.

  2. This battery is stuck in the TV controller and I can't remove it.

  3. Buckingham Palace tried to keep the news about the latest royal scandal quiet but it escaped nonetheless and quickly became public knowledge.

  4. Sometimes I really struggle to say the words.

  5. I've managed to avoid babysitting tonight, so I can come to the cinema with you.

  6. Lisa stopped going to the gym as she was no longer feeling the benefits.

 

EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM 'BRING UP' (other variations may be possible)


  1. My parents BROUGHT me UP to always stand up for myself.

  2. I have something that I would like to BRING UP in tomorrow's meeting.

  3. When I searched for concert tickets on the internet it only BROUGHT UP tickets available in a different country.

  4. Can you please BRING me UP some water! It's hot up here on this roof.

  5. I was looking at my phone during the performance but suddenly one song BROUGHT me UP to a stop.

  6. Can you please tell BRING me UP to speed on the new project?

 

That is the end of today's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.


If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.


Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'get out' below. I really love reading them. See you next time! James






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