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The Phrasal Verb 'Get Over' Explained

Updated: 3 days ago

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


A stone bridge crossing a narrow valley with a river running underneath

Hello and welcome to my website all about English phrasal verbs! Read on to learn more about the phrasal verb 'get over'....


'Get over' is a common phrasal verb in English with a variety of different meanings. In this post, I will explain the different meanings that it has and how they are used by native speakers, including getting over an illness, getting over a message, getting something over with and even not being able to get over something. So, without further ado, let's make a start....


GET OVER: KEY INFORMATION

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

Usage

Common

Number of meanings

6

Separable?

Sometimes

Past tense forms

Got over / got over / gotten over

 
The letters ABC written on a blackboard with chalk and books in the foreground

THE BASICS

The phrasal verb 'get over' is formed of the hugely common verb 'to get' and the prepositional particle 'over' and before we look at the different meanings of this phrasal verb, let's first look at these individual words.


You do not need to have had much contact with the English language to know that the verb 'to get' is very common. Indeed, I know from my students that it is a very frustrating word for English learners as it has such a lot of different meanings and uses....I think even native speakers are confused by it sometimes! We don't have the time to cover all of the meanings of 'to get' here, however some of its relevant meanings for the purposes of this post are that 'to arrive' and 'to become'.


The particle 'over' can be used as a preposition, adverb and adjective and is often used to describe moving across from one side of something to the other, often with the idea of moving above it. Moreover, as an adjective, it can be used to mean 'finished' or 'complete' and gives the idea that something is now in the past.


So, now we have looked at the basics, let's move on to the meanings of the phrasal verb 'get over'...

 

MEANING 1: To cross something



CEFR Language Level

A2 - Elementary

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To cross, to go over, to come over, to surmount

Separable?

No

Nouns commonly used with

Bridge, river, wall, (finish) line, fence, hill, mountain

Ok, let's begin with a nice and easy meaning of 'get over', which is 'to cross something from one side to the other'. This is normally by moving across its surface or in the air above it.


This movement could take the form of climbing, walking or even driving, the main idea is that you move from one side of it to the other.

HOW IS 'GET OVER' DIFFERENT FROM 'GO OVER'?

Whilst 'get over' is broadly similar in meaning to the phrasal verb 'go over' (link here), it is used slightly differently. We use both of them to talk about moving from one side of something to the other, but with 'go over' the focus is on the movement from A to B, especially when the movement is easy or problem-free. However, with 'get over', the focus is more about the destination and tends to be used when there is a difficulty, problem or challenge to reach it. As such, 'get over' is commonly used with nouns such as wall, river, finishing line (of a race) and mountain; all of which could potentially be difficult or challenging to cross. Furthermore, It often appears in questions and negative statements.  

We mostly use this application of 'get over' to talk about when when you or other people are crossing from one side of something to the other, so grammatically, this does not take a direct object and is therefore not used separably.


However, if we are talking about a person carrying or taking something across, then we are able to use it separably as the thing being carried is a direct object. Again, we would only tend to use 'get over' when there is some sort of challenge or difficulty involved as 'take over' or 'carry over' would normally be used here.


You may have also heard someone being told in English to 'get over here' or 'get over there' as these imperative forms of 'get over' are used quite often to tell someone to move to a different place. This can often be considered as quite rude or severe though, so hopefully it wasn't aimed at you!

Examples of usage....

I'm not sure how my dog got over the garden fence.
The explorers looked up at the mountain and tried to figure out a way to get over it.
A car had broken down in the middle of the bridge and we weren't able to get over it, so we had to turn back and go a different way.
The sprinter developed an injury during the race and sadly wasn't able to get over the finishing line on his own.
Some of the other athletes picked the injured athlete up and got him over the line.
The police were puzzled as to how the criminals had managed to get the drugs over the border.
John, get over here and show me what I need to do.
 

MEANING 2: To recover from something



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Common

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To recover, to recuperate, to get better

Separable?

No

For those of you who are regular visitors to this website, you may remember a post that I've recently written about the phrasal verb 'go through' (link here). If you have read this, you will hopefully know that one of its meanings is to suffer a traumatic or negative experience. This second meaning of 'get over' is like a part two of that meaning as it means 'to recover from something traumatic'.


As with 'go through', this application of 'get over' is used when we experience something traumatic that causes physical or mental suffering, typically with relationship break-ups, grief following the death of a loved one and physical injury or illness. 'Getting over' something is a process that happens over a period of time, from a few days to many years and, in some cases, it can never happen at all.


You may also be familiar with the imperative expression "get over it!", which is used as a way of telling someone to accept a situation and stop worrying or being sad about it.


Alternatively, "you'll get over it" is a frequently used and often sarcastic expression to say to someone who is overreacting about something that their problem is not very important.


Examples of usage....

It took me a few months to get over my ex-girlfriend and move on.
I've been sick with a really bad cold recently and I am still getting over it.
John has never gotten over the death of his mother when he was a child.
Get over it, Lisa! That was 2 years ago! It is time that you moved on with your life.
 

MEANING 3: To overcome something



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To overcome, to surmount, to master

Separable?

No

For the next meaning of 'get over', we are going to keep to a similar sort of idea as the previous usage as this one is 'to overcome' something.


More often than not, this meaning of 'get over' is used with fears and if we can 'get over' a fear of something, it means that we are no longer scared or afraid of it. For example, when I was younger I had a mild fear of spiders but then I lived with someone who was TERRIFIED of them and so every time a spider appeared in the house, I had to remove it. By doing this, I quickly got over my fear and now they do not bother me...that is a true story, by the way!


In addition to fears, 'get over' is also used with finding solutions difficulties and problems., however less frequently so.


This usage is also inseparable and we cannot add a direct object between the words 'get' and 'over' here.


Examples of usage....

When I was a child I was petrified of the dark, but I got over my fear when I became a teenager.
Getting over a phobia of something takes a lot of mental will power but it is possible!
How are you going to get over this issue at work?
 

MEANING 4: To be very surprised by something



CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper intermediate

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To be amazed, to be shocked, to be surprised, to be flabbergasted

Separable?

No

Ok, for this next usage we need to switch things up a little bit as this one only exists in a negative form with the modal verb 'can'.


If you hear a native speaker say that they can't get over something, it is possible that they are talking about not being able to recover from something, but it is generally more likely that they are saying that they are very surprised by something.


This is quite a strange and idiomatic usage (as is normal for English) and I think it was probably originally used in the sense that someone was shocked by something very bad and then found it difficult to recover (as per meaning 2). However, the usage has changed over time to now mean only shock or surprise at anything, whether it be good or bad, and that they find it hard to believe.


Examples of usage....

I can't get over how much you look like your Dad!
You've grown so much since I saw you last year, I can't get over it!
Sarah couldn't get over how rude the waiter was to her in the restaurant. She was speechless!
 

MEANING 5: To successfully communicate something



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To communicate, to get across, to come over, to convey

Separable?

Yes

Have you ever been in a situation in which you have needed to communicate a message to someone in a particular way? If you have, you were probably hoping to get the idea of the message over in the correct way. Or, in other words, you wanted the person to understand the message in the way that you intended.


The reason for this is that the next meaning of 'get over' is to successfully communicate a message, an idea or some information to another person or group of people.


Unlike the other applications of 'get over' that we have considered so far, this one can be used separably and does take a direct object, which is usually the idea, message or information that you want to convey.


Examples of usage....

The company is desperate to get the idea over to its customers following their last desperate advertising campaign.
Despite making a few mistakes, the politician managed to get his message over to the audience during his speech.
Did I get my point over ok?

Additionally, we can also use 'get over' to mean to send something to someone, such as an email, report or document. This is often used in a work or office environment.


I will finish this report and get it over to you before lunchtime.
When do you think you can get that email with the monthly figures over to me?
 

MEANING 6: To do something unpleasant but necessary



CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced

Usage

Medium

British or American?

Both

Potential synonyms

To finish, to end, to complete

Separable?

Yes

For our final meaning, we require the additional preposition 'with' as 'to get something over with' means to finish doing something that is unpleasant, yet unavoidable.


Whether it be work, a confrontation, something frightening or stressful or even a trip to the dentists, we can use 'get it over with' to express that we must do something undesirable and so it is just best to do it immediately or as quickly as possible, so that it is done and we can forget about it.


This usage combines the meaning of 'get', as in to arrive, with the meaning of 'over', as in to finish or complete something and so literally means 'to arrive at a point when something is finished', i.e. the unpleasant thing.


This is a set expression and should always follow the same word order, with the horrible but necessary activity placed between 'get' and 'over'. A frequently used variation of this expression is 'to get something over and done with', which means the same thing.


Examples of usage....

Come on Doctor, I know that this will be painful, so can we please get it over with.
I just want to get this week at work over with as quickly as possible as I am going on holiday next week.
Let's get this over and done with so that I can go home and forget about it.
 

The word BONUS spelled out using different coloured balloons held up by different hands

IDIOM ALERT!

As is customary at the end of a post, I like to end things, where possible, with a useful idiom featuring the phrasal verb in question and this post is no different.


If someone tells you 'to get over yourself', they are not asking you to somehow climb over yourself, but rather to stop being conceited, vain or pretentious. In other words, stop behaving like you are better or more important than other people. Hopefully nobody will ever say it to you, but I think we all know someone to whom this idiom could be applied!


Examples of usage....

Oh stop acting like you're the King of England and get over yourself!
Get over yourself, John and stop complaining!
 

This brings us to the end of the post. So, to recap, we can use the phrasal verb 'get over' to express climbing or crossing something from one side to the other; we 'get over' something traumatic or an illness and if we are lucky we can 'get over' our fears and no longer be scared of something. If we can't get over something, then we find it very surprising or hard to believe and if we get something unpleasant over with, we do it quickly so that we can forget all about it. Lastly. I hope I have been able to get the meanings of this lovely phrasal verb over to you in a satisfactory way and that you have learnt something new today.


Now it is YOUR turn. Leave a comment on the blog post with your own sentence using 'get over'....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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