Got Vs. Gotten

English is full of tricky participle forms! Many verbs in English have two different ways of spelling the past participle form of a verb. The reasons are various, including different regions, different meanings, or different usages. Some participles we’ve explored in the past include Learned Vs. Learnt, Laid Vs. Lain, and Hanged Vs. Hung.

Today we’ll explore Got Vs. Gotten, which we cover in our updated Grammar Practice Worksheets Lesson on the Third Conditional. (Note: the new and improved lesson will be available on the site next week).

(A post on Sneak Vs. Snuck was also a recent request and is coming soon!)

Got Vs. Gotten

The choice of got or gotten as the past participle of the verb “get” mainly depends on where you live.

“Gotten” is more commonly used in the US and Canada.

“Got” is more commonly used in the UK.

Having said that, both gotten or got are acceptable in the US and Canada, so it’s important that we teach our students that both forms are possible. I’ve also heard, in various English language forums, that gotten is becoming more acceptable in the UK.

What do the dictionaries say? Both Merriam-Webster’s (US) and the Oxford Canadian Dictionary list the past participle form as “got or gotten,” while Oxford Dictionaries (online) list “got” as the British English past participle form and “gotten” as the North American past participle form. Again, we can see the importance of teaching both forms to our students no matter what region they’re in, though I believe it’s equally as important to point out the most commonly used form (gotten in North America and got in the UK).

What do the style and usage guides have to say? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage mentions that while some grammarians have insisted in the past that gotten is informal and shouldn’t be used, both forms are frequently and commonly used in North America today.

The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed, 5.250), which is a very reputable source used by many editors and publishers, has this entry:

The verb is conjugated get–got–gotten in American English and get–got–got in British English.

Examples

Here are some examples that use gotten in North American English:

  • Things have gotten out of hand lately.
  • She has finally gotten her son to clean his room.
  • He hasn’t gotten very far with his homework.

Here are the same examples in British English (using got):

  • Things have got out of hand lately.
  • She has finally got her son to clean his room.
  • He hasn’t got very far with his homework.

Tips

  • Remind students in North America that get-got-gotten is conjugated similarly to forget-forgot-forgotten.
  • Tell students in the UK to use the same form for the past participle as they do for the past: get-got-got.

Did You Know?

Both got and gotten have been around for centuries. Got was the past form of get in Middle English and gotten was the past participle form. The US and Canada held onto the original p.p. form, gotten, while most other English-speaking countries shortened the p.p. form to got.

Today, the verb get is one of the five most common English verbs, according to Oxford Dictionaries.

Other Uses of Got

Have Got

The expression have got can be used to show possession in the US, Canada, and the UK (especially in informal situations).

  • I’ve got two brothers and one sister.
  • She’s got a red car.

Showing two examples side-by-side will help highlight the difference for students learning English in the North America:

  • I’ve got a new jacket. (something that is possessed/owned)
  • I’ve gotten better at writing in English. (something that is obtained)

If students learning North American English are struggling with this rule, point out that both forms are often acceptable, depending on the meaning.

  • I’ve got a new jacket. (I now own a new jacket.)
  • I’ve gotten a new jacket. (I have bought a new jacket.)

Have Got To

Another expression that never uses gotten is the modal expression have got to, which means “must.” Use have got to no matter where you live.

  • I’ve got to study tonight. I have a big test tomorrow.
  • You’ve got to log in before you can access the site.

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