Got vs. gotten

Which one Is the correct word choice?

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When you're an English speaker, it can be hard to keep up with all the rules—and one of the most confusing parts is which words to use in which condition.

Take the simple word "get" as the first example. 

People in America and Canada mostly use "gotten" as a preferred past participle form when they speak and write.

Britain and other English-speaking countries exclusively use "got" as the past participle form.

"Get" is a pretty common verb in the English language. So, the debate between "got" vs. "gotten" creates room for confusion. 

What should you say? Let's get to the bottom of it.

The basics of the verb "get"

To understand the proper application of "got" and "gotten," you should learn about the basics of the verb and its usage in different tense forms. 

The verb "get" can have many meanings depending on the context. A few of them include:

  • Obtain or acquire something: "I get money from my father every month."
  • Possess something: "We can get an extra ticket by joining the contest." 
  • Understanding or grasping an idea: "I couldn't get what he said."
  • A command to order someone to do something: "Get me some water!"

Irrespective of the meaning, the verb keeps the similar present and simple past tense forms in all versions of English languages. 

Its application changes only in past participles, but that too depends on the text theme and audience. How? Let's find out.

Got vs. gotten: The difference

The spelling of these words is different, which is pretty obvious. But they have some other contextual and grammatical differences.

English speakers in America and Canada use "gotten" in past participles. On the other hand, the shorter form "got" has become standard outside North America. 

Sounds like a pretty simple concept, right? How do you feel when I tell you that American English also uses the shorter version of "got?" 

Confusing? Well, it doesn't have to be. Let's make everything clear with some examples.

Difference between "got" and "gotten" in American English

In past participle form

Below are a few examples of "gotten" in sentences by American speakers:

  • Example 1: She's gotten into the habit of talking to herself in the mirror.
  • Example 2: I've forgotten to do the homework.
  • Example 3: He has gotten a car from his parents.

These instances maintain the structure: have + verb's past participle + noun phrase

It means "to have in one's possession," and North American people always use "gotten" in this sense. 

In American English, the past participle form "got" is used in sentences containing: have + verb's past participle + to + verb phrase.

This structure emphasises the act, something that must be done. For example:

  • Example 1: We've got to forget our differences.
  • Example 2: You've got to see it in person to believe how incredible the concert was. 
  • Example 3: You've got to keep pushing to close the deal.

In terms of meaning

There are also some contexts in North American English where "got" and "gotten" don't bear identical meanings. 

  • Example 1: I have got a phone.
  • Example 2: I have gotten a phone.

The first instance implies that you have the phone now, in the present time. But the second instance is more appropriate for referring to you having a phone in the past. 

You can use the word "gotten" when referring to the acquisition by another person or the process of obtaining something.

  • Example: Mark has gotten me the ticket for the game. 

On the other hand, "got" is used when talking about something someone owns or has in their possession.

  • Example: I have got a ticket for the game. 

In terms of consistency

"Got" and "gotten" could be used in a sentence based on mood and consistency rather than correctness. 

There is no hard-and-fast rule about this application, and it mostly depends on the user.

  • Example 1: My soul had got lost in darkness.
  • Example 2: My soul had gotten lost in darkness.

In the above sentences, "had gotten lost" sounds better and has more impact than "had got lost." In this case, it's a matter of consistency and effect rather than the correct form of use. 

"Got" in British English

We've seen that American English has use cases for both forms. But in any place where British English is prevalent, "got" is used.

Here are a few examples of how this can play out:

Example Set 1: Have you gotten any good deals lately? (U.S. English)

                          Have you got any good deals lately? (UK English)

Example Set 2: Andrew has gotten up early to go jogging. (U.S. English)

                           Andrew has got up early to go jogging. (UK English)

Example Set 3: I have got to go. (U.S. English)

                           I have got to go. (UK English)

From the above examples, it's clear that British English is relatively straightforward with the past particle form of "get." You use "got" on all occasions, irrespective of the sentence structure, context, and meaning. 

On the other hand, North Americans use both forms but not interchangeably. You have to be careful about their correct applications.

The origin of "got" and "gotten"

You might be thinking, "What's the big deal?" But it's intriguing to see the complete purging of the word "gotten" from UK English in several centuries, despite its existence in Middle English.

The use of "gotten" became obscure in British English grammar in the 18th century. It was revived eventually but on the other side of the Atlantic. Since then, the word has been used primarily in North America.

Because of its exclusive use in America and Canada, many people believe that the word "gotten" originated in North America. 

The verdict: got vs. gotten

The use of "got" and "gotten" is a topic that often confuses English language learners and speakers alike.

In American English, there are some contexts where you can use either word without much fuss. But they have different use cases, and applying them interchangeably will only sound jarringly out of place.

UK English does not have such a difference. It uses "got" on every occasion as the past participle version of "get."

FAQs about choice got vs. gotten

Which one is correct, "got" or "gotten"?

Both versions are correct when you use them in the proper context and for the right audience.

There is no need to use "gotten" for a non-American audience. People in England use "got" for all kinds of expressions, whether it's for referring to "something in one's possession" or "something that one must do."

"Got" and "gotten" don't have similar uses in North America. So, when speaking to or writing for an American or Canadian audience, check the word's supposed meaning and sentence structure to avoid grammar errors.

Can I use "got" instead of "gotten"?

You can if you are writing in British English where the use of "gotten" is non-existent. However, Americans use both forms, and there are some apparent differences between them. So, interchanging them could be wrong as it may change the meaning of the text. 

Are "got" and "gotten" the same?

Both words are the past participle form of the verb "got," but the similarity ends there. In the North American context, their application in the English language is different from each other. For example, "got" refers to owning something in the present but using "gotten" in the same context means owning something in the past. "Got" is the only option in British English since it does not use "gotten."

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