The Grammarphobia Blog

“Got” and “gotten”

Q: I have a question about British usage. The Brits say “have got” when we say “have gotten.” Which is more correct?

A: In Britain, the preferred past participle of the verb “get” is “got”; in the United States the preference is for “gotten” in some cases and “got” in others, depending on one’s meaning. (The past participle is the form of a verb that’s used with “have,” “had,” or “has.”)

As far as which is “more correct,” a Brit will tell you that “gotten” is wrong. Not so! The truth is that at one time, English routinely had two past participles for the verb “get.” Over the centuries, the two branches of English developed in different directions. While American English retained both forms, British English dropped “gotten” entirely. The result is that we have a nuance of meaning the poor Britons don’t.

When we say, “Jack and Sue have got a dog,” we mean they own a dog. When we say, “Jack and Sue have gotten a dog,” we mean they have acquired one. There’s a distinct difference between the two statements.