Let us take the verb 'get', we can say both:

1- Someone gets to take something

2- Someone gets someone to take something

In the 1st sentence, 'get' is a modal morpheme, but in the other sentence 'get' is a causative morpheme. This case is not only found in English, in Riffian there is also this confusion:

1- i-ga ad i-ksi ci (he-did FUT he-take something)

2- i-ga x-k ad t-ksi-d ci (he-did on-you FUT you-take something)

How is it possible that a morpheme can be either causative or modal ? Can we speak of "ambi-auxiliarity" ?

  • "Someone get to take something" isn't grammatical and "Someone get someone to take something" is only grammatical in the imperative mood, in which case "get" is no longer a modal.
    – ubadub
    Oct 2, 2018 at 21:07
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    Why shouldn't it? Get is also used in English to form passives. So what?
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 2, 2018 at 23:14
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    @amegnunsen: the passive 'get' certainly does not exist only in the past: "They're gonna get caught!" In answer to your question: of course a linguist can ask any question they like, but not all questions have interesting answers.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 3, 2018 at 9:04
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    Words can be ambiguous and even one word can have distinct valence frames with various roles such as causee (in your second example).
    – Atamiri
    Oct 4, 2018 at 12:26
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    These are two different idioms involving get. (There are a lot more.) X get to VP means X is allowed to VP, so you can think of it as having a deontic modal sense (no epistemic sense, though, so it's not a full modal). On the other hand, X get Y to VP means that X causes Y to VP, so you can think of it as being causative. Get is, after all, the causative/inchoative form of both be -- He got married -- and have -- He got a cold. Idioms have special affordances and grammar; it doesn't have to much to with get as with idioms.
    – jlawler
    Oct 4, 2018 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Words can mean different things.

(I know this answer is terse but I'm not sure what else you expect. There's no rule that says "Languages can't have homophonous morphemes.")

  • @ubadud I agree, but it seems that these two 'get''s belong to the same paradigm or in any case they cannot be combined syntactically. If they were analytical verbs, that should be possible.
    – amegnunsen
    Oct 3, 2018 at 10:26

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