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got, gotten

Got is the simple past tense of the verb get:

  • Megan got a bad sunburn yesterday.
  • Luc got to work at 8:45 and opened the store at 9:00.

Got is also used as the past participle of get in both British and North American English:

  • We had got most of the work done by the time Hal arrived.

Although gotten is now obsolete in Britain, it is correct in North American English as an alternative past participle:

  • We had gotten most of the work done by the time Hal arrived.

In informal contexts, has, have and had are often contracted to ’s, ’ve, and ’d before got or gotten:

  • I’ve got an idea.
  • He’d gotten away with his crimes until Ms. Drew caught him.

Special uses of got

Have got may be used to express the idea of possessing something:

  • Amrita has got (or Amrita’s got) a beautiful blue silk sari.
  • They have got (or They’ve got) a whole hour to wait.

Have got to may be used to mean “must” or “have to”:

  • I have got (or I’ve got) to send a thank-you note to my aunt.
  • You have got (or You’ve got) to be kidding!

The use of got by itself (i.e. without have) with a present tense meaning is colloquial and should be avoided in formal writing and speaking:

  • Colloquial: I got something to tell you.
    Formal: I have got (or I’ve got) something to tell you.
  • Colloquial: You got to hurry!
    Formal: You have got (or you’ve got) to hurry!

Special uses of gotten

North Americans tend to use the past participle gotten instead of got to express the idea of obtaining (rather than possessing) something. Compare the following sentences:

  • Tara has got a science degree. (= She has a degree.)
  • Tara has gotten a science degree. (= She has obtained a degree.)

Gotten also tends to be used more often than got to mean “become” or “grown”:

  • It has gotten very dark; a storm must be brewing.
  • Raul has gotten to like vegetables after visiting his vegan uncle.