December 09, 2005

Get to

I was writing to a linguist at the University of Toronto about the fact that a friend of mine, a brilliant philosopher, had just moved there, and I found myself writing something which, now that I quote it to you, I feel I have to prefix with the ungrammaticality-marking asterisk:

*If you don't know her, get to.

For me, the verb phrase ellipsis fails there. (Purely an intuitive judgment of ungrammaticality, not intersubjectively checkable. I don't see how to test it by googling. Your mileage may differ.) I have absolutely no idea why it would be ungrammatical. The sentence ought to be a perfectly ordinary and acceptable way to say "If you don't know her, get to know her." Compare with this:

If you haven't heard from her yet, expect to.

That means "If you haven't heard from her yet, expect to hear from her", and there's nothing weird about it at all. I'll tell you, with each successive month I study language, it seems to me to get more and more mysterious.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at December 9, 2005 08:45 AM