Go or Get? Why ‘get angry’ but ‘go crazy’, ‘go crazy’ but ‘get furious’?

To mean ‘become + adjective’, you sometimes have to say ‘go + adjective’ and sometimes ‘get + adjective’. For instance,

He got angry.

not *’He went angry.’

He went crazy.

much more common than ‘He got crazy.’ But

He got furious.

not *’He went furious.’

ngram viewer: He went angry. He got angry. He went crazy. He got crazy. He went furious. He got furious.

Any reason for this, any rule, which would make it unnecessary – for the English learner, who does not have an instinct for this – to learn adjective by adjective which verb they collocate with?

Michael Swan’s explanation in Practical English Usage, Oxford University Press, Second edition, Fourth impression, 1996, is not really satisfactory:

(page 129, n° 4 b changes of quality)

Go (and not usually get) is used before adjectives in a number of common expressions that refer to changes for the worse. People go mad/crazy/deaf/blind/grey/bald; […]. Note that we use get, not go, with old, tired and ill.


I think the choice between ‘go’ and ‘get’ to collocate with an adjective obeys two criteria:

1) whether the adjective is gradable or extreme:

you go bananas, not * get bananas because you cannot be * very bananas, only completely bananas (extreme adjective)


you get angry, not * go angry, because you can be very angry (gradable adjective)…

but that’s not enough, because why then would you

get furious, not * go furious, when you cannot be * very furious, only completely furious (extreme adjective)?

So it must also depend on something else:

2) whether the adjective expresses a quality you can have control of/over or not

you go bald because there’s nothing you can do to prevent it; similarly, you go crazy/bananas because your anger becomes extreme whether you like it or not; it overwhelms you, you lose control


you get furious because you ‘allow’ your anger to become extreme; you remain in control.

To sum up:

if the adjective is gradable, get (get old/tired/ill because you can be very old/tired/ill);

if it is extreme, go, unless it describes something you can have control of/over, in which case you still use get.

Sorry! No grammar books to quote from, just a hunch. (Not that I haven’t looked!)

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