Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

get at

get at
Meaning(s)
1) suggest something without directly saying it
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • what are you getting at?
  • Analysis

    Get at is a phrasal verb which has a number of meanings that can be used in a professional or social context. To get at something can mean to have access to something for example, 'I can't get at the box because I'm too short'. Informally or colloquially to get at something can mean to imply or suggest something indirectly, so you can say. 'I think I know what you're getting at,' or you can ask someone 'what are you getting at?'

  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. Stop talking in riddles and just tell me what you're getting at!
    2. I'm not sure what you're trying to get at but I didn't take the money.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. I know the report I wrote is quite long and somewhat convoluted, but I hope you can see what I was trying to get at.
    2. We might need to hire a translator for the meeting or else it's possible we won't understand what the client is trying to get at.
  • Further Suggestions
2) reach or discover something
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • get at the truth
  • Analysis

    To get at something can mean to access something or to reach for or obtain something especially when it is difficult or challenging. For example, you might open a laptop to get at the hard drive or use a ladder to get at something in the attic.

  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. The shelf in the kitchen is so high that I need a ladder to get at it!
    2. There are some documents I need for my assignment but it's hard to get at them because you need special permission.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. Thanks to his dogged work and well-placed sources, the investigative journalist managed to get at the truth of the situation.
    2. The electrician had to move the dishwasher out of the way to get at the faulty wiring behind it.
  • Further Suggestions
3) criticize or irritate somebody
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • everybody seems to be getting at me
  • Analysis

    To 'get at' someone can mean to irritate or annoy somebody. If you 'get at someone' you might critisise them frequently or constantly behave in a cruel way towards them, similar in meaning to 'being on someone's case'.

  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. I don't know why Sarah needs to get at me like that. She must have a chip on her shoulder about something.
    2. My parents always get at me about learning to drive but I'm too nervous to try it.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. Nigel gave me the silent treatment after the meeting ended because I think he felt that I had been getting at him. In fact, I only offered constructive criticism. 
    2. I'm not trying to get at anyone in particular but can we please keep the workspace a lot tidier? It's difficult to work with all this mess.
  • Further Suggestions
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