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 these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Scotland

, .
hour late , but I it boss .

About the sentence

…my boss hadn’t noticed…

The past perfect (my boss hadn’t noticed) is 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.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Northern England

.
let him speaking to you then he'll just .

About the sentence

…If you let him get away with…

Notice the verb pattern to let sb do sth, e.g. I don’t let my children watch too much TV.

A very common mistake with this verb is to use the full infinitive, e.g. I don’t let my children to watch too much TV.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

?
choose pay any tax you could it?

About the sentence

Notice that this question is a second conditional, which is used for hypothetical present/future situations.

The structure of a second conditional is: If + past, would + verb. e.g. If you won the lottery, would you retire?


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