‘Got’ vs. ‘gotten’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Let’s not beat around the bush with complicated linguistic terms; the difference between “got” and “gotten” is relatively simple. First:

If you speak British English, just use “got” and avoid “gotten” altogether.

There is no such word as “gotten” in British English, and perhaps the only British expression containing the word is “ill-gotten”, which is an adjective meaning “obtained illegally or unfairly”.

If you learn American English, the situation is slightly more complicated. The past tense of “get” is “got”, just as in British English, but you should remember that:

In American English, the past participle of “get” in its literal sense of “receive” or “become” is usually “gotten”. In the sense of “must” or “have”, the past participle is always “got”.

For example, in the first case (receive, become):

I have never gotten a gift. (= I have never received a gift.)
I’ve gotten interested in chess. (= I’ve become interested in chess.)

And in the second case (have, have to):

She’s got five children. (= She has five children)
I’ve got to go now. (= I must go now.)

Note that “have got” in the sense of “have”, “possess” is more common in British English and is often considered colloquial or even incorrect in American English. Also note that there are regional differences, and some Americans prefer “got” in the first case as well, but on average, the “gotten” form in the sense of “receive” and “become” is much more common than “got” in the US.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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