I've encountered several different ways of saying "I got" in Russian, but I am a bit confused on the differences in nuance these expressions have. To be clear, my question is about the phrase "I got" in the sense of "I acquired something" and not in the sense of "I have something."

Firstly, I've seen the expression "у меня появился что-то" and I always thought it was used when you cannot help getting what you got. It literally means "something appeared to me," so I'd use this expression for "I got a chance/opportunity" and maybe even for "I got a new friend" (not sure about this). But I recently heard someone (who's a native Russian) say "у меня появился Netflix." This seemed strange to me since Netflix is not something that just randomly appeared to her; she actively went and bought a Netflix account. So, in which types of situations can this Russian expression — у меня появиться — be used?

Secondly, when trying to solve this question myself, I stumbled upon the verb приобретать. If I'm not mistaken, this means "to acquire", but does this sound as formal in Russian as the verb "to acquire" sounds in English? Or is it more frequently used in daily situations?

Thirdly, the verb получить means, if I'm not mistaken, to get something from an other person as a gift/reward. Is it correct that you cannot say, for example, "я получил Netflix," since you cannot use this verb when you buy something?

Lastly, I've heard people say things like "я мне купил что-то" but I wonder if there is a generic verb for "to get something" without specifying that you bought it, or someone gave it, etc.

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    English verb "to get" has a number of meanings. Do you want to discuss them all, or focus on specific examples, like Nextflix one? – Alexander Sep 16 '19 at 20:12
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    Good question as it demonstrates how different the two languages are in certain aspects. "if there is a generic verb for "to get something"..." - no, the English verb is famous (infamous) of being way too generic, Russian somehow developed no need for such a generic meaning and prefers more specific verbs that give you a bit of extra information in addition to just 'get'. The question requires a fairly long answer, can't do this right now. Correction: "я купил себе что-то", not "мне". And yes, "приобрести" is a fairly formal verb in Russian. – tum_ Sep 16 '19 at 20:25
  • @Alexander It "has a number of meanings" only from a Russian-speaker's point of view (non-English speaker, to be more precise). It would be more correct to say that it has a number of "translations" into Russian (and other languages). For a native English speaker the perception of 'get' is different and the OP has clearly specified: "I mean "I got" in the sense of "I acquired something" and not in the sense of "I have something". – tum_ Sep 16 '19 at 22:45
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    @tum_ In any English dictionary (ex. Merriam-Webster) "to get" article would have a long list of different meanings (1, 2, 3...). A number of these meanings can be used as "I acquired something". That number is still significant. – Alexander Sep 16 '19 at 22:57
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    @Alexander Good point. I would say that 1, 2 and maybe 3 (if you stretch it a bit) from the M-W list fit into what the OP tries to describe. But I'd rather read his own reply, of course. (Also wonder if an average English native, non-linguist, actually perceives 1 and 2 as different meanings...) – tum_ Sep 16 '19 at 23:17

I wonder if there is a generic verb for "to get something" without specifying that you bought it, or someone gave it, etc.

I am not a native speaker, but I think that the expression у меня появился Х is more or less what you are looking for. Here are some examples:

У меня появился ноутбук. (I got a laptop.)

У меня появился острый нож. (I got a sharp knife.)

У меня появились навыки игры в рэндзю. (I got renju skills.)

У меня появилась проблема. (I got a problem.)

In all these example sentences, it is not specified how I got what I got. For example, I may have bought the laptop or may have been given the laptop by someone for free. The only information is that I did not have the laptop and now have it.

However, you should be careful because the expression у меня появился would sound unnatural in some contexts. For example, imagine you go to an exam, get an A grade, and call your parents to say you got an A grade. In this situation, the natural way is to say я получила пятерку, not у меня появилась пятерка.

Below are some other phrases that are close to I got X:

  • Мне дали Х. (I was given X.)

  • Мне достался Х. (I ended up having X, in the end of a process of distributing something or fighting for something.)

  • Теперь у меня есть Х. (Now I have X.)

  • Я достала Х. (I managed to acquire X.)

  • Я заимела Х. (I came to own X.)

  • Я приобрела Х. (I got X as a result of a certain action of mine.)

All such expressions have their own undertones or flavors.

As a general remark, the Russian language is very rich lexically, so I would advise to always strive to find situation-tailored lexical solutions rather than to resort to generic expressions.

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    "is more or less what you are looking for." - just a comment for the OP that Mitsuko refers to your "Lastly" part of the question, as there are actually 4 questions in own, which, by the way, makes it difficult to answer. As a native speaker I can confirm that the answer is quite good but the key point in it is actually "All such expressions have their own undertones or flavors." :) Which basically translates into "no, there is no generic verb". Появился will work in some contexts, will be odd in others and absolutely inappropriate in (yet) others. – tum_ Sep 16 '19 at 22:58
  • For objects that are normally acquired for money (like notebook computer), "появиться" is a very unlikely choice of word. It either implies a strong "Don't ask me how!" context, or, in a story, starts a new chapter after preceding one described in detail how this notebook was acquired. – Alexander Sep 16 '19 at 23:07
  • "4 questions in own" -> 4 questions in one – tum_ Sep 16 '19 at 23:20
  • +1 for "теперь" - In many cases it's just "у меня теперь", like in phrases: - А у меня теперь ноутбук [есть]! - У меня же теперь Нетфликс. – shabunc Sep 17 '19 at 10:23

I'd translate "I just got Netflix" as "Я только что подключился к нетфликсу."

There's a larger point here that the verb "get" (and much of language in general) is highly idiomatic and difficult to summarize with hard and fast rules. I'd recommend just absorbing as much native material as possible, and as a result intuiting what to use when, instead of spending a lot of energy on trying to logically map everything out.


In conversational Russian, a very informal word "перепало" is used. E.g.,

"Мэрии выделили землю под дачи. Лучшие участки пошли начальству, но что-то перепало и рядовым работникам."

Not always but oft, it bears a slight sarcastic connotation:

"Вчера в кабаке пережрались, опрокинули чей-то стол, затеяли драку. Вовик, бедняга, зуба лишился. Перепало и мне, еле ноги унёс."

Here, "пережрались" is a very conversational term for "overconsumed booze" ,
while "перепало и мне" means: "I also got some beating".

  1. "У меня появилось что-то" ("У меня появился что-то" is grammatically incorrect) is the closest meaning to "I got." It means that I acquired something without specifying how it happened. In that example with Netflix, the girl just didn't draw attention to how exactly she got the Netflix account. She just wanted to say that now she has Netflix.

  2. "Приобретать" is somewhat formal in Russian. It's an "offical term" of getting ownership on something, like "acquire" is in English. But it still can be used in everyday speech. Usually it appears in common speech when one is talking about major acquisitions. For example, "Я приобрёл себе автомобиль," "Я собираюсь приобрести квартиру в Питере." But "Я приобрёл кулёк семечек на рынке" would be appropriate only in a police report.

  3. You are right about "получить." But if you got Netflix through some marketing effort or sales strategy (like an offer that comes with an official DVD), you can say "я получил Netflix с официальным DVD."

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