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I know two verbs which are translated as "to get/receive," namely, 得る and もらう. From the usages in which I've seen them used, they seem to be interchangeable; are my suspicions correct or is there a difference I should be aware of?

For what it's worth, I see 得る usually translated as "to get" and "もらう" usually translated as "to receive." In the textbooks I'm using, もらう was introduced much, much earlier than 得る- but obviously curricula aren't necessarily indicative of actual usage.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted
  • 得る = to (actively) get / acquire something (in general).
  • もらう = to (actively or passively) receive / get something from a person.

Examples where もらう is more appropriate:

  • 友達【ともだち】からプレゼントをもらう receive a present from a friend
  • 息子【むすこ】から手紙【てがみ】をもらう receive a letter from the son
  • 親【おや】からお金【かね】をもらう receive money from the parent
  • 学校【がっこう】で誰【だれ】かからインフルエンザをもらう catch someone's flu

Examples where 得る is more appropriate:

  • インターネットで情報【じょうほう】を得る get information from the internet
  • 株取引【かぶとりひき】により利益【りえき】を得る make a profit from stock trading
  • 勉強【べんきょう】して知識【ちしき】を得る obtain knowledge by studying

Examples where 得る/もらう is both acceptable (with slightly different nuance)

  • 働【はたら】いてお金【かね】をもらう/得る
  • 友人【ゆうじん】からアイディアをもらう/得る

Using もらう looks he's a little more thankful to his employer/friend.

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