Is it "got" or "gotten?"

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Jane Peters asked me to write about the word "gotten," so here goes…

It's not a word I'd thought about, so off I went to Grammar Girl and a few other sites to learn what I could learn. 

First, I learned that American, Canadian, and British English uses are not in agreement.  Those using British grammar bookEnglish will use the word "got" where those using American or Canadian English will use "gotten."

Gotten is the past participle form of the word get. It generally (but not always) comes after the words has or have.

Proper use would be:

  • "I have gotten behind on my bookwork." (British: have got)
  • "He has gotten the same birthday gift from his Dad three years in a row." (British: has got)
  • The book was not gotten easily.” (British: was not got)

But – just because you see a "have" or a "has" doesn't mean the word following it should be "gotten."

If you say "I have got a rock in my shoe" it means a rock is right there in your shoe at the present time.

If you said you had gotten a rock in your shoe, it would indicate that it was something that happened to you in the past. For instance: "I have gotten rocks in my shoes while creek fishing."  

If you say "I have got to get to the store before dinner time," it means you must do so – before dinner time. If you say "She has got to pass this test or she'll fail," it means she must. 

In other words, "has got" or "have got" are often used in place of the word "must."


How about "I've got a silly song stuck in my head, playing over and over?" That's in the present.

"I got a song stuck in my head yesterday" would be simple past tense, while "I've gotten silly songs stuck in my head many times" would be past participle

OK, so "gotten" is the past participle form. What the devil does past participle mean?

I know how to use it, but found it hard to define, so went searching again. According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, it is a verb used with auxiliaries to express completed action in a time gone by, as in our examples above.

It can also be used to form the passive voice, as in "dinner was eaten quickly," or as an adjective, as in "ill-gotten gains."

My research also informed me that the word "get," along with its past and past-participle forms, is one that many people avoid, thinking it far too informal. That's something that would never have occurred to me.



 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Hi Marte, I gotta get me some better understanding of this whole grammar thing... .it's gotten outta control.

How's that? 

I try.... But seriously, I may not know the description, or if it is really a rule or not. I think that all the reading I did as a child helped me to know if something is correct or not. (Google helps)


Jun 02, 2016 07:58 PM #1
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Good one. I've also seen that others use got instead of gotten and been confused by it.

Jun 02, 2016 10:17 PM #2
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Marte. Thanks for the clarification. Your posts are priceless! Enjoy your day!

Jun 02, 2016 10:19 PM #3
Raymond E. Camp
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Ontario, NY
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester

Good morning Marte,

Now i do not know if you got me or not.

Make yourself an astonishing day.

Jun 02, 2016 10:37 PM #4
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Marte. Leave it to you. Great information and clarification.

Jun 02, 2016 11:09 PM #5
Patty Da Silva, Davie, Southwest Ranches Cooper City, Plantation, Weston, REALTOR
BROKER of Green Realty Properties® - 954-667-7253 - Davie, FL
Top Listing Broker

Awesome blog, Marte. It's really nice to visit your blogs for some grammar refreshers :)

Jun 03, 2016 12:54 AM #6
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

Marte...I am most likely the worst peson here for you can slap me anytime.

Jun 03, 2016 05:04 AM #7
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

That is interesting, Marte. thank you. Being a Brit gotten grates on my every time. I am wondering if gotten is a newer use of the word. 

Jun 03, 2016 05:56 AM #8
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Jane Peters Actually, no. Here's a quote from the Grammarist:

"That gotten is primarily used in North America has given rise to the mistaken belief that it is American in origin and hence new and inferior. But gotten is in fact an old form, predating the United States and Canada by several centuries. It fell out of favor in British English by the 18th century, but it was eventually picked up again on the other side of the Atlantic, perhaps by analogy with forgotten."

"The vehemence of some Britons’ scorn for gotten likely has to do with the fact that it has gained ground in British English over the last couple of decades. Many English speakers from outside North America resist the encroachment of so-called Americanisms (many of which, like gotten, are not actually American in origin) on their versions of English, and, for mysterious reasons, some feel especially strongly about gotten."

Jun 03, 2016 06:06 AM #9
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi Marte - Darn. I had my clever comment about ill-gotten gains all the way to your next to the last paragraph and I'm too lazy today to work up a different one.

Jun 03, 2016 06:27 AM #10
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

More uses for that word keep popping up. How about as emphasis, as in "I've GOT to get this done."

Jun 03, 2016 07:05 AM #11
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