What is Tim Bowen getting at? Don’t let the answers get away from you with his latest phrasal verbs round-up.

Usually only used in the present or past continuous, the phrasal verb get at conveys the idea that someone is trying to suggest something without saying it directly, as in ‘What are you getting at?’ or ‘I wasn’t at all sure what she was getting at’. 

It can also be used to mean to manage to reach or touch something, as in ‘We put netting over the seedlings to stop the birds getting at them’. A third meaning of get at is to uncover or reveal and in this sense it usually collocates with ‘the truth’ or ‘the facts’, as in ‘It was a clear attempt to stop journalists getting at the truth’. 

The principal meaning of get away is to escape from a person or place, as in ‘He tried to grab the pickpocket but he got away’. It can also be used in the sense of managing to leave a place, especially a place of work or a formal commitment, as in ‘I’ll join you for lunch if I can get away’. 

Similarly, get away can also mean to go somewhere different from where you live in order to have a break or a holiday, as in ‘We usually manage to get away for a few days over Easter’. 

If you get away from the point, you talk about something that is different from what you should be talking about, as in ‘I think we’re getting away from the point here’. 

If you get away with something bad or negative, you manage to avoid being punished or criticized for it, as in ‘This is a company that has repeatedly broken the law and, unfortunately, it has got away with it time after time’.