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Get vs. Receive: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
"Get" often implies obtaining or acquiring, while "receive" suggests being given something, usually without direct action on the part of the receiver.

Key Differences

"Get" is a versatile verb used to describe the action of obtaining, acquiring, or becoming something. It can imply an effort or action taken to obtain what is wanted or needed. For example, you get groceries from the store, which involves the action of going and buying them.
On the other hand, "receive" typically refers to the act of being given something. It often implies a more passive role in the action. When you receive a gift, it comes to you without the need for you to go and get it. The emphasis is on the delivery to the person rather than the collection.
"Get" can also mean to become or to start to be in a particular state or condition. You can get tired, get excited, or get married. This usage differs significantly from "receive," which is not used in the context of entering states of being or conditions.
Additionally, "get" can be used informally as a way of saying "understand," such as in the phrase "Do you get what I'm saying?" Whereas "receive" does not carry this meaning and is not used in the context of understanding information or ideas.
"Get" sometimes indicates a change of position or condition as a result of one's own action, like "get up" or "get moving," while "receive" remains firmly in the territory of taking in or being given something from an external source.

Comparison Chart


Implies effort or action
Passive acceptance


Broad, various contexts
Narrower, specific contexts


Acquisition or change
Being given or delivered to


Informal, versatile
More formal


Can indicate earning
Implies a giver

Get and Receive Definitions


To obtain or acquire.
She got her driver's license last week.


To be given or presented with.
She received an award for her work.


To reach or arrive at a condition.
We got home late after the concert.


To accept delivery of.
We received our package yesterday.


To cause to be in a place or condition.
Please get the book from the shelf.


To suffer or experience.
He received a harsh criticism.


To become affected by.
He got very excited about the news.


To entertain or host.
They received their relatives during the holidays.


To understand.
Did you get the joke he told?


To greet or welcome.
The guests were received by their host.


To come into possession or use of; receive
Got a cat for her birthday.


To take or acquire (something given or offered); get or be given
Receive a present.


To meet with or incur
Got nothing but trouble for her efforts.


To be the person who gets (something sent or transmitted)
Receive an email.


Do "get" and "receive" have the same past tense form?

No, "got" for "get" and "received" for "receive".

Can "get" be used instead of "receive"?

Sometimes, but not when formal language is required.

Can "receive" imply effort?

No, it implies something is given to you.

Does "receive" have phrasal verbs?

Not typically.

Can "get" indicate understanding?

Yes, as in "get the meaning".

Is "get" used in idiomatic expressions?

Yes, extensively.

Can "get" be used in passive constructions?

Yes, such as "He got hit by the ball".

Can "receive" be used informally?

It can, but it's less common than "get".

Are there phrasal verbs with "get"?

Yes, like "get up" or "get along".

Is "receive" ever used in passive voice?

It's naturally passive.

Do "get" and "receive" share any synonyms?

Yes, like "obtain" and "acquire".

Is "receive" a formal word?

Yes, it's more formal than "get".

Can "get" refer to illness?

Yes, like "get a cold".

Is "get" ever used ceremonially?

Rarely, it's too informal.

Is "receive" ever used to indicate understanding?

No, it's not used in this way.

Can "get" be replaced with "receive" in casual speech?

Often, but the tone changes to more formal.

Does "receive" imply a sender?

Yes, there's typically a sender or giver.

Can "get" start a command?

Yes, e.g., "Get down!"

Is "receive" used in legal language?

Yes, it's common in legal contexts.

Is "receive" used in sports commentary?

Yes, like "receive a pass".
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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