Translating 'Get' to Spanish

Common Verb Has Dozens of Meanings

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Me puse feliz al leer su mensaje. (I got happy when I read your message.). Photo by María José Fornerod; licensed via Creative Commons.

"Get" is one of those English verbs that is notoriously difficult to translate. It has a wide variety of meanings (as any English-language dictionary will tell you) and is also used in quite a few idioms. Each of them needs to be looked at individually to determine how best to say it in Spanish.

Here are some of the most common meanings of "get" and ways that you can say them in Spanish:

"Get" meaning "to obtain": Common verbs with this meaning include obtener (conjugated in the same way as tener) and conseguir (conjugated in the same way as seguir):

  • Voy a obtener la licenciatura que siempre quise. I'm going to get the degree I've always wanted.
  • Diseñan un barco que obtiene su energía de las olas. They are designing a boat that gets its energy from the waves.
  • El gobierno canadiense consiguió voto de confianza. The Canadian government got a vote of confidence.
  • Te conseguimos el mejor precio para tu coche nuevo. We got you the best price for your new car.

If "get" carries with it the ideas of obtaining and bringing, the verb traer can often be used: Tráeme dos galletas, por favor. Get me two cookies, please.

Recibir is frequently used with certain nouns: recibir un préstamo, to get a loan; recibir una respuesta, to get a response; recibir un e-mail, to get an email; recibir un trasplante, to get a transplant.

"Get" when referring to a change in emotion: It is common in English to say that a person gets angry, gets sad, gets happy and so on.

Many of those phrases have particular verbs to express the thought in Spanish. Among them: enfadarse, to get angry; entristecerse, to get sad; alegrarse, to get happy; preocuparse, to get worried; confundirse, to get confused. It is also possible to use the verb ponerse to indicate a change in emotions.

  • Me puse feliz al leer su mensaje. I got happy when I read your message.
  • Se puso triste porque fue a la nevera a buscar mi botella de agua y estaba vacía. He got sad because he went to the refrigerator to look for his bottle of water and it was empty.
  • Mi decisión se debió sencillamente a que me fastidié de depender de la nicotina. My decision came about simply because I got annoyed at depending on nicotine.
  • En ocasiones me exaspero. Sometimes I get impatient.

"Get" meaning "to succeed at": Among the verb choices are llegar a and conseguir. Either of them are typically followed by an infinitive.

  • No llegaron a ver la luz del día. They didn't get to see daylight.
  • Llegué a estudiar a Santiago en 1982. I got to study in Santiago in 1982.
  • Consiguieron mirar una película de la acción de Hong Kong. They got to watch an action film from Hong Kong.
"Get" meaning "to understand": Either entender or comprender can usually be used. The verbs are usually interchangeable, although entender is more common in most areas.
  • No lo entiendo/comprendo. I don't get it.
  • No entiende/comprende por qué no le preguntó por su número de teléfono. He doesn't get why she never asked him for his telephone number.
"Get" meaning "to earn": Ganar can usually be used.
  • Gana cien pesos por hora. She gets 100 pesos per hour.
  • El ejército mexicano finalmente ganó la victoria más increíble de la historia militar. The Mexican army finally got the most incredible victory in military history.
"Get" meaning "to arrive": Llegar can be used to speak of arrivals.
  • Llegó a casa a las cinco. He got home at 5.
  • No llegaré a la oficina. I won't get to the office.
The above meanings don't represent all the ways that "to get" can be used. The important thing to remember when translating is to figure out first what it means by "to get," perhaps by coming up with a synonym.

The following page lists possible translations for many phrases using "get."

The English verb "get" is part of many phrases — many of them can be thought of as idioms or phrasal verbs — that can't be translated word-for-word into Spanish. Here are some of the most common with possible translations:

Get across: Hacerle entender algo for getting someone to understand something; cruzar de un lado a otro for going from one side to another.

Get along: Marcharse or irse when meaning to go away; progresar when meaning "to progress"; funcionar when meaning "to function" or "to work" in that sense.

"To get along with someone" is "llevarse bien con alguien."

Get around: Salir a menudo when meaning "to get from place to place."

Get ahead: Tener éxito or abrirse camino for getting ahead in life; tomar la delantera for getting ahead of someone.

Get around: Circular or difundirse for news or gossip; evitar, solventar or sortear for getting around an obstacle or problem; convencer or persuadir for getting around a person.

Get away: Escaparse for escaping; irse or salir for leaving; salir impune or irse de rositas for avoiding responsibility.

Get dirty: Ensuciarse or mancharse when referring to physical filth; hacer trampa for cheating at a game.

Get back: Volver for returning; retirarse or apartarse for retreating.

Get better: Mejorar.

Get bigger: Crecer.

Get by: Arreglárselas or apañárselas for managing to do something; pasar for passing a person or thing.

Get high: Ponerse colocado or ponerse flipado when referring to a drug-induced high; ascender a un lugar alto for moving to a high place.

Get down: Usually bajar or bajarse. To get down on one's knees is ponerse de rodillas.

Get dressed: Vestirse.

Get in: Entrar when meaning "to enter."

Get into: Entrar when meaning "to enter"; subir a when referring to a vehicle; adquirir el hábito for getting into a habit; empezar a disfrutar for getting into an activity; hacer cola for getting into a line; meterse en for getting into a career.

Get in trouble: Meterse en problemas or meterse en un lío.

Get married: Usually casarse. El 20 de septiembre nos casamos Alicia y yo. On Sept. 20 Alicia and I are getting married.

Get off: Bajarse for getting off a vehicle such as a bus; irse for leaving; escaparse for avoiding punishment.

Get on: Subir a or montarse for getting on a vehicle or horse; seguir or continuar for continuing an activity; hacerse viejo for getting on in years; progresar for progressing.

Get out: Irse or salir for leaving; bajarse for getting out of a vehicle; levantarse for getting out of bed; sacar for removing an object or sacarse for removing oneself.

Get over: Recobrarse or recuperarse for getting over an illness. The idea of "you'll get over it" can be expressed by "ya te se pasará" or "no te importará."

Get started: Comenzar or empezar.

Get to business: Ir al grano.

Get to (do something): "To have the opportunity to" is "tener la oportunidad de (hacer algo)."

Get up: To arise is levantarse. Verbs with similar meanings include despertarse for getting out of bed and ponerse de pie for standing up.

Get worse: Empeorar.

Obviously, there are many more phrases using the word "get," and even those listed above may have meanings that aren't given here.

Again, the key to figuring out how to say them in Spanish is to first think of an alternative way of conveying the same idea in English, then expressing that idea in Spanish.