get away with: meaning and explanation

to get away with something = to do something bad or wrong, but avoid punishment.

You might do something bad and get away with it because you didn’t get caught. e.g. Apparently he has been stealing from his boss for years and has somehow got away with it.

It could also be that you get away with it because someone decided not to punish you (e.g. because they forgive you or because they don’t care). e.g. He got away with breaking his sister’s toy because his mum was too tired to punish him.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this phrasal verb being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: Scotland

hour late , but I it boss .
I an hour late work, but I away with it my boss hadn't .

…my boss hadn’t noticed

The past perfect (my boss hadn’t noticedis used here because the action (not noticing) happens before the main action in the sentence (getting away with it). We need the past perfect to show that this action happens in the earlier past.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Can you remember doing something naughty when you were a child? Did you get away with it or did you get punished?
  • Do you know anyone (e.g. a brother or sister, a friend, a colleague at work) who never gets punished when they do things wrong? Why do they always get away with it?

Photo by Andy Beales on Unsplash

Was this helpful?

Tagged in: