#34 – TO GET AT

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= to suggest something without actually saying it directly
“What are you getting at exactly?”
= to criticise someone again and again
“you’re always getting at me, can’t you just leave me alone? ”
Hello everybody.

This is Luke from Luke’s English Podcast.

…and this year I’m gonna teach you a phrasal verb every day. That sentence went a bit dramatic at the end. I don’t know why!

Anyway, today’s phrasal verb is TO GET AT someone

to…, to…, well, not just someone, TO GET AT something or TO GET AT someone.

Several meanings:

The first one means to suggest something without actually saying it.


…to…, yeah! To suggest something without saying it directly. So, you’re kind of alluding to something, implying something, but without actually saying it directly.


For example this situation:

[SPK1] – “Evening, squire… so your, your wife, your wife. She likes sport, does she? You know what I mean? I mean, likes sport, likes games. Yeh? Yeh? Yeh?”
[SPK2] – “Sorry, what are you getting at exactly?”

There you go, okay?

Another use of the expression “TO GET AT” will be TO GET AT somebody.

…and this means to criticise someone again and again in a way that’s kinda unfair.


– “Why…? Why are you…?”, I can’t speak…

– “Why are you always GETTING AT me? Stop GETTING AT me all the time!”

meaning; stop criticising me, nagging me

– “You’re always GETTING AT me, aren’t you? What have I done wrong? Stop GETTING AT me”

There you go. So, you’ve got one meaning “to suggest something without actually saying it directly”

[SPK1] – “What are you GETTING AT? What are you implying? Are you saying something about my wife?”
[SPK2] – “No, no, no. I just, you know, I was just making conversation, you know, she likes… she likes photos, doesn’t she? Yeh? I mean, she likes taking photos”
[SPK1] – “What? What are you GETTING AT exactly?”


…and another one means when someone criticises again and again in a way that seems unfair.

– “You’re always GETTING AT me. Can’t you just leave me alone?”


There will be another one of these tomorrow.

Don’t forget to visit teacherluke.wordpress.com and don’t forget of course to vote for me in the annual MacMillan Dictionary Award.

You can find a button to vote for that on my website. It might be a nice way to repay me.

– “Repay me?”

People don’t say “repay me”. It might be a nice way to repay me for doing all these things.


That’s it.


  • Denis Paraschuk

    I don’t like getting at my son, but sometimes I have to do it.

    And one more thing which I don’t like to do as well – I don’t like getting at, I always try to avoid getting at – more preferable for me is to say everything directly, looking straight in the eyes.

  • Steve


  • Steve

    Hiya. Should it actually be “more clear” or “clearer”? Thank you for being accommodating each time! Incidentaly, I believe you have a genius for rapping.

    • Both ‘clearer’ and ‘more clear’ are acceptable, and in fact I find that ‘more clear’ is perhaps the more common, as ‘clearer’ is a little tricky to pronounce.
      Thanks for your opinion of my rapping!

  • María José

    I can´t get what you are getting at, could you please be more clear?
    That´s not very nice of you, don´t get at people if you don´t want people to get at you.

  • Anna

    Ahaha!! The video is brilliant. To say nothing of the the podcast. Of course, I know what “get at” means, but to listen to your explanations gives a not less pleasure than any other thing concerning English!