In English, we use the incredibly versatile word get to mean so many different things, and of course we do it without thinking, because it’s our native language. But French doesn’t have just one equivalent so when it comes to express something with get in French it’s easy to freeze up and not know what to say.
So in this lesson I’m going to give you 16 ways to translate get from English to French.
And that’s not even an exhaustive list!
Thank goodness for being a native speaker of English (sorry if you’re not)!
Watch the video below or keep reading.
What I do to find a translation for Get
A lot of the time when we use get there is an alternative way of saying the same thing in English.
It’s this alternative that you can usually accurately translate to French.
It just takes a little thought and you can know how to say your sentence, without looking it up!
And, any time spent thinking about or in French is time well spent.
Ok let’s get into the list, broken down into seven contexts.
Seven contexts, 16 translations for Get
Context #1: Possession
First we have Possession:
- I’ve got a pen can also be expressed as I have a pen.
We then translate that to J’ai un stylo. Perfect!
Hopefully you already see the simplicity of this method.
Ask yourself how could you express the action/verb in English without get, and then translate that to French.
The same goes for You’ve got a job. You have a job. Tu as un travail.
Context #2: Obtaining something
I got the job. means you obtained the job, you succeeded in your quest.
Well we can use the translation of obtain which is obtenir. J’ai obtenu le poste.
And it is probably even more common to use avoir here. J’ai eu le poste.
If the context is an email or a letter, it’s more normal to say to receive than have and so He got your email. should be thought of as He received your email. Il a reçu votre mail. but you can definitely also say Il a eu votre mail.
To obtain can also mean to buy. Therefore we use acheter. Did you get beer? Did you buy beer? Tu as acheté des bières ?
Finally, you could obtain something that was originally in your possession, so you get it back. You recover it. So we can say Tu as récupéré les bières ? such as if they were at a friend’s place.
Context #3: Ordering something
In English we might say Can I get a coffee please? You can definitely say Can I have a coffee please? and so in French you translate word for word and get Je peux avoir un café s’il vous plaît ?
But, perhaps a more normal verb to use when ordering food or drinks is to take a coffee. Je prends un café s’il vous plaît.
Context #4: To understand something
I get it. I understand. Je comprends. But often you’ll need it in the past tense, J’ai compris.
Likewise I don’t get it. is Je ne comprends pas or Je comprends pas and often J’ai pas compris.
Context #5: A change of state
I like to break this down into 2 sub categories:
- to become + an adjective
- when something happens to something or someone.
To become + adjective
Let’s first see To become + an adjective.
She got sad. Her state changed to being sad. She became sad. Elle est devenue triste.
We might often express this with went. She went crazy. But it still means to become crazy and so Elle est devenue folle. is our phrase.
Then there is I got angry. Je me suis énervé. You can also say Je suis devenu énervé but Je me suis énervé would be more common. The verb is s’énerver.
When something happens to something or someone
The other type of state change is when Something happens to something or someone.
It got damaged. It was damaged. It has been damaged. are expressed as Il a été endommagé or il a été abimé. If the thing is masculine of course.
I got fired. I was fired/have been fired. J’ai été viré.
Or you use the incredibly common, yet complex for English speakers, se faire + infinitive: Je me suis fait virer.
That is likely one or two steps of complexity more. Go with what is most comfortable for you.
One thing at a time.
Context #6: To arrive somewhere
If My dad got there on time then he also arrived (there) on time and so Mon père y est arrivé à l’heure.
However if We get back home at 6 pm then We return (home) at 6 pm. and we use rentrer. On rentre à 18h.
Context #7: To take care of a problem
Imagine someone’s being rude to your friend or maybe the car broke down. You take charge.
Don’t worry, I’ve got this. is also Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this or I’ll deal with this. This is expressed as: Ne t’inquiète pas, je m’en occupe.
S’occuper de quelque chose is the verb.
How about if your friend forgets his wallet and you say I’ll get this then. It basically means I’ll pay then. And so, Je vais payer alors.
So there you have it, 16 ways to say get in French, across 7 different contexts in everyday situations. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all the first time round. We went through it quickly. Come watch and read or watch again whenever you like.
Don’t forget you can get a free copy of my guide to speaking French with confidence here.