Is the Get-passive Really that Adversative?


  • Eduardo Coto Villalibre Universidad de Cantabria



get-passive, semantics, adversative, beneficial, neutral


The characteristics commonly attributed to central get-passives in the relevant literature include the possibility of taking an overtly expressed agent by-phrase, a dynamic meaning conveyed by the lexical verb, an animate and human referent who is at the same time responsible for the action expressed in the clause, and an adversative semantic implication of the past participle. This paper focuses on one of the abovementioned features: the semantic implication of get-passives, that is, whether the event described in the clause is beneficial or favorable for the subject (get awarded, get elected, get promoted), adversative or unfavorable for the subject (get arrested, get killed, get shot), or semantically neutral (get printed, get sent, get written). Data collected from a corpus-based analysis of the spoken British English component and other spoken ESL components of the International Corpus of English (ICE) will be deployed to argue against those claims which define the get-passive as a predominantly negative or adversative construction in Present-Day English.


Download data is not yet available.


Adger, David and Graeme Trousdale. 2007. “Variation in English syntax:Theoretical implications”. English Language and Linguistics 11(2): 261-278.

Biber, Douglas. 2012. “Register as a predictor of linguistic variation”. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 8(1): 9-37.

Biber, Douglas, Jesse Egbert, Bethany Gray, Rahel Oppliger and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. 2016. “Variation versus text-linguistic approaches to grammatical change in English: Nominal modifiers of head nouns”. In Kyto, M. and P. Pahta (eds.) Handbook of English Historical Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.: 351-375.

Biber, Douglas and Bethany Gray. 2013. “Being specific about historical change: The Influence of sub-register”. Journal of English Linguistics 41: 104-134.

Biber, Douglas and Bethany Gray. 2016. Grammatical Complexity in Academic English. Linguistic Change in Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad and Edward Finegan. 1999. The Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman.

Biewer, Carolin. 2008. “South Pacific Englishes – Unity and diversity in the usage of the present perfect”. In Nevalainen, T., I. Taavitsainen, P. Pahta and M. Korhonen (eds.). Dynamics of Linguistic Variation: Corpus Evidence on English Past and Present. Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 203-219.

Brown, Keith and Jim Miller. 2017. A Critical Account of English Syntax. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U.P.

Bybee, Joan. 2006. “From usage to grammar: The mind’s response to repetition”. Language 82(4): 711-733.

Bybee, Joan. 2011. “Usage-based theory and grammaticalization”. In Narrog, H. and B. Heine (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford U.P.: 69-78.

Bybee, Joan. 2013. “Usage-based theory and exemplar representations of constructions”. In Hoffman,T. and G.Trousdale (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Construction Grammar. Oxford: Oxford U.P.: 49-69.

Bybee, Joan and Paul J. Hopper. 2001. “Introduction to frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure”. In Bybee, J. and P. J. Hopper (eds.) Frequency and the Emergence of Linguistics Structure. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 1-26.

Collins, Peter. 2009. “Modals and quasimodals in World Englishes”. World Englishes 28(3): 281-292.

Comrie, Bernard. 1976. Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

Dahl, Östen. 1999. “Perfect”. In Brown, K. and J. Miller (eds.) Concise Encyclopaedia of Grammatical Categories. Oxford: Elsevier: 3037.

Dahl, Östen and Eva Hedin. 2000. “Current relevance and event reference”. In Ö. Dahl. (ed.) Tense and Aspect in the Languages of Europe. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 385-401.

Davies, Mark. 2013. “Corpus of global web-based English (GloWbE)”. Available online at

Davydova, Julia. 2011. The Present Perfect in Non-Native Englishes. A Corpus-Based Study of Variation. Berlin and Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.

Elsness, Johan. 2009. “The present perfect and the preterite”. In Rohdenburg, G. and J. Schlüter. (eds.) One Language, Two Grammars? Differences between British and American English. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.: 228-245.

Engel, Dulcie and Marie-Eve Ritz. 2000. “The use of the present perfect in Australian English”. Australian Journal of Linguistics 20(2): 119-140.

Fischer, Olga. 2007. Morphosyntactic Change. Functional and Formal Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford U.P.

Fox, Barbara. 2007. “Principles shaping grammatical practices”. Discourse Studies 9: 299-318.

Geeslin, Kimberly with Avizia Y. Long. 2014. Sociolinguistics and Second Language Acquisition. NY/London: Routledge.

Greenbaum, Sidney. (ed.) 1996. Comparing English Worldwide: The International Corpus of English. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Hilpert, Martin and Christian Mair. 2015. “Grammatical change”. In Biber, D. and R. Reppen (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.: 180-200.

Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum. 2002. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

Hundt, Marianne. 2015. “World Englishes”. In Biber, D and R. Reppen (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.: 381-400.

Hundt, Marianne and Nicholas Smith. 2009. “The present perfect in British and American English: Has there been a change, recently?”. ICAME Journal 33: 45-63.

Kachru, B. (ed.) 1982. The Other Tongue — English across Cultures. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press.

Langacker, Ronald W. 2000. “A Dynamic usagebased model”. In Barlow M. and S. Kemmer (eds.) Usage Based Models of Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 127-163.

Loureiro-Porto, Lucia (forthcoming). “ICE vs GloWbE: Big data and corpus compilation”. World Englishes. doi: 10.1111/weng.12281

Mair, Christian. 2015. “Cross-variety diachronic drifts and ephemeral regional contrasts. An analysis of modality in the extended Brown family of corpora and what it can tell us about the New Englishes”. In Collins, P. (ed.) Grammatical Change in English World-Wide. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 119-146.

Miller, Jim. 2000. “The perfect in spoken and written English”. Transactions of the Philological Society 98(2): 323-352.

Mukherjee, Joybrato and Marco Schilk. 2012. “Exploring variation and change in New Englishes: Looking into the International Corpus of English (ICE) and beyond”. In Nevalainen,T. and E. Traugott (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. Oxford: Oxford U.P.: 189-199.

Neumann, Stella. 2013. Contrastive Register Variation: A Quantitative Approach to the Comparison of English and German. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Schaub, Steffen. 2016. “The influence of register on noun phrase complexity in varieties of English”. In Schubert, C. and C. Sanchez-Stockhammer (eds) Variational Text Linguistics: Revisiting Register in English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 251-270.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2003. “The dynamics of New Englishes: From identity construction to dialect birth”. Language 79(2): 233-281.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English: Varieties Around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

Schneider, Edgar W. 2013. “English as a contact language: The ‘New Englishes’”. In Schreier, D. and M. Hundt (eds.) English as a Contact Language. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.: 131-148.

Seoane, Elena and Cristina Suárez-Gómez. 2013. “The expression of the perfect in East and South-East Asian Englishes”. English World-Wide 34(1): 1-25.

Seoane, Elena. (Forthcoming). “The role of cotext and context in the entrenchment of new grammatical markers in World Englishes”. In Busse, B and R. Möhling-Falke (eds.) Patterns in Language and Linguistics: Crossing the Boundaries in Interdisciplinary Discourse. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Seoane, Elena. 2016a. “The perfect space in creole-related varieties of English: The case of Jamaican English”. In Werner, W., E. Seoane and C. Suárez-Gómez (eds.) Reassessing the Present Perfect. Corpus Studies and Beyond. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 195-221.

Seoane, Elena. 2016b. “World Englishes today”. In Seoane, E. and C. Suárez-Gómez. (eds.) World Englishes: New Theoretical and Methodological Considerations. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins: 1-15.

Suárez-Gómez, Cristina and Elena Seoane. 2013. “‘They have published a new cultural policy that just come out’: Competing forms in spoken and written New Englishes”. In Bech, K. and G. Andersen (eds.) English Corpus Linguistics: Variation in Time, Space and Genre. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi: 163-182.

Suárez-Gómez, Cristina. (2017). “A function-to-form approach to perfect meaning in Africa, Asian, and Caribbean Englishes”. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt and Lars Hinrichs. 2008. “Probabilistic determinants of genitive variation in spoken and written English: A multivariate comparison across time, space, and genres”. In Nevalainen, T., I. Taavitsainen, P. Pahta and M. Korhonen (eds.). Dynamics of Linguistic Variation: Corpus Evidence on English Past and Present. Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 291-309.

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt and Bernd Kortmann. 2011. “Typological profiling: Learner Englishes versus indigenized L2 varieties of English”. In Mukherjee, J and M. Hundt (eds.) Exploring Second-language Varieties of English and Learner Englishes: Bridging a Paradigm Gap. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 167–187.

Thomason, Sarah G. 2001. Language Contact. An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U.P.

Trousdale, Graeme. 2010. An Introduction to English Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburg U.P.

Van der Auwera, Johan, Dirk Noël and Astrid de Wit. 2012. “The diverging Need (to)’s of Asian Englishes”. In Hundt, M. and U. Gut (eds.) Mapping Unity and Diversity Worldwide: Corpus-Based Studies of New Englishes. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 55-75.

Van Rooy, Bertus. 2009. “The shared core of the perfect across Englishes: A corpus-based analysis”. In Hoffman, T and L. Siebers (eds.) World Englishes: Problems Properties – Prospects. Amsterdam: Benjamins: 309-330.

Werner, Valentin, Elena Seoane and Cristina Suárez-Gómez. 2016. Re-assessing the Present Perfect. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Werner, Valentin. 2013. “Temporal adverbials and the present perfect/past tense alternation”. English World-Wide 34(2): 202-240.

Werner, Valentin. 2014. The Present Perfect in World Englishes: Charting Unity and Diversity. Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press.

Werner, Valentin. 2016. “Rise of the undead? BE-perfects in World Englishes”. In Valentin Werner, Elena Seoane & Cristina Suárez-Gómez (eds.) Re-assessing the Present Perfect. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 259-294.

Werner, Valentin and Robert Fuchs. 2017. “The Present Perfect in Nigerian English”. Language and Linguistics 21(1): 129-153.

Xiao, Richard. 2009. “Multidimensional analysis and the study of World Englishes”. World Englishes 28(4): 721-450.

Yao, Xinyue and Peter Collins. 2012. “The present perfect in World Englishes”. World Englishes 31(3): 386–403.

Yerastov, Yuri. 2015. “A Construction grammar analysis of the transitive Be-perfect in present-day Canadian English”. English Language and Linguistics 19(1): 157-178.




How to Cite

Coto Villalibre, E. (2015). Is the Get-passive Really that Adversative?. Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, 51, 13–26.



ARTICLES: Language and linguistics