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Is “Gotten” Correct?

  • People in the United States and Canada use gotten for the past participle of got in most cases.
  • People in English-speaking countries outside of the United States and Canada usually use got.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the verb get is one of the top five most commonly used verbs in the English language. Some sources say gotten is the past participle of get, but is that correct?

Got and Gotten: The Differences

Both got and gotten existed as far back as Middle English. English speakers in North America preserved gotten as the past participle of got. Outside of North America, the shortened version became standard. Here are a few examples of how an American speaker would use gotten in a sentence:

I’ve gotten better at singing since I started taking lessons.

Movie tickets have gotten so expensive!

Once you’ve gotten the computer working, would you try to fix the TV?

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Most British speakers would use got instead of gotten in these sentences, or else change the phrasing entirely.

Have got + noun phrase simply means “to have in one’s possession.” This phrasing is more common in British English than in American English.

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw

Former Norwich City goalkeeper Joe Lewis believes the Canaries have got “a Premier League player” on their hands in James Maddison.

Have got to + verb phrase means “must.” Both American and British speakers use this phrasing, especially when they want to add emphasis.

Whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh.
Katharine Hepburn

“This storm is still impacting people in a big way,” said Gov. Pat McCrory. “You have got to see it to believe all the devastation that has occurred.”

If you live in the United States or Canada, you will probably choose gotten as the past participle of get. If you are in another part of the world, you might favor got. No matter where you speak English, get is a common verb, so it’s important to use it correctly.

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