The grammar of "got"

As I understand it, “got” is nothing but the simple past of “to get”, and in British English it is also the past participle of that verb (in American English, that participle would be “gotten”).

Nonetheless, it seems that in colloquial usage, “got” is often used as if it were an infinitive of a verb in its own right. I can see that where the speaker wants to speak about the process of receiving something, as in “I got a new car” (which you might say if you want to emphasise that you yourself received it); but sometimes I have the impression that it is used in instances where it is simply synonymous with “to have”, and there is no connotation of the speaker receiving anything. For instance, a sentence like “I got a brother who’s two years older than I am” makes no sense in the original meaning of “to get”, but it doesn’t seem to be unusual to use “got” that way.

Sometimes this usage of “got” as if it were a verb in its own right goes even further: I’ve heard people say “What do you got?” where I would have said “What have you got?” or “What do you have?”.

So has “got” evolved in its meaning up to the point where these usages of it as a verb are correct, or is this still perceived as wrong by native speakers?

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

The perfect tense is used in familiar language in senses equivalent to those of the present tense of have or possess.

They give many examples going back to Shakespeare.

1596 Shakes. Merch. V. ii. ii. 99 What a beard hast thou got; thou hast got more haire on thy chin, then Dobbin my philhorse has on his taile.

It’s obviously wrong, because it’s an incorrect use of “have got,” but sometimes it sounds okay. I don’t object to in colloquial use. It’d be a real howler in a more formal context, though.

ETA: I think that’d more accurately be “Whaddya got?” (with or without a final “eh?”).

In your dialect, maybe. The fact that other people customarily and successfully use these forms to successfully with each other implies that they’re standard in their dialects.

Common usage of the word often strays from the way I learned it. Picture somebody walking up to a desk or a checkout counter. The person there, often as not, will say, “Okay, whatcha got?” Sixties soul singers, wanting to get a mention of lust past the censors, would say, “Gotta, gotta, gotta.” In the big Beatles documentary, you’ll hear Paul McCartney singing, “I got a feeling,” without a trace of “have.”

It’s too late in the game to start getting upset over misuse of got, in all its varieties.

Aside from that, I got nothing.

And you got my sympathy if you think it’s correct grammar, which was the question. I say to all of you, “FQ.” :grin:

Infinitive? Can you give an example?

In my dialect (London), “I got a new car” is a straightforward statement that carries no connotation. I could mean you bought it, it came with a job, someone gave it to you, anything. It’s probably the most common way of expressing the fact that you have a new car.

In my dialect,

What have you got?
What’ve you got?
What you got? - this is an informal oral contraction, I would not write it this way.
Often it comes out sounding like “What-choo got?”. I’m not sure why.

But
*What do you got?" - no, I would not say this

When I was studying in Quebec, one of my francophone roomates asked me to explain “to get” and its various conjugations to her. I couldn’t. I could just give examples of where I would use it and where I wouldn’t. It’s an extremely slippery little word.

We all have strong intuitive feelings about what is grammatically correct based on usage in our own dialect, and we all have our own experience of formal and informal usage. But this is “factual” only as a data point for one dialect, for the social context of one time and place, it is not some universal absolute truth. I always think it’s more constructive in these conversations to simply provide data about usage in your own dialect, and steer clear of suggesting that anything is “wrong” unless there’s strong consensus from a variety of dialects that something really is a mistake rather than just variation in usage.

It’s also true, of course, that changes in usage are often perceived by the majority of speakers as mistakes, or highly informal, before eventually evolving to become perfectly standard. Perceptions in this regard will often be correlated with the age of the speaker.

Indeed, and I think it’shighly variable among dialects. Probably something of shibboleth for whether someone is a native speaker of the local dialect. Look at the huge list of different shades of meaning in the OED:

https://www.oed.com/oed2/00094176

You were responding to alovem, who said correctly that it wouldn’t be objectionable in colloquial speech but would be absolutely wrong in a formal context, both of which I would expect anybody to agree with. But colloquial speech is not usually synonymous with a dialect. What dialects do you know where “have got” is the standard form, which is what a dialect implies?

@alovem is only qualified to speak about what’s correct in their own dialect, as are you. Perhaps you expect other dialects to follow the same rules, but let’s hear what other people have to say.

Informal speech varies among dialects and social contexts; so does more formal speech and written language. I don’t know what you mean here.

I’m not sure that is the usage that is primarily under discussion, but for what it’s worth “have got” is certainly perfectly standard in my dialect (London).

I have got a problem with that.
I’ve got a red Toyota.
I have got to start my diet soon.

But you really can’t expect (and do not want) people who are not expert linguists to talk about usage in dialects other than their own. Let’s just stick to providing data about usage in our own dialect.

I would agree with all three examples @Riemann gives. Perfectly normal usage.

Anybody want to address the different senses in the examples below? I want to call these intransitive vs. transitive, but that’s probably incorrect.

Example #1: The sense of currently having, possessing:
I got a house and a car.
I got blue eyes.

Example #2: the sense of having acquired at some definite point in the past:
I got a letter in the mail today.
I got a black eye at the pub last night.

In my American dialect, the second sounds fine, but the first is not something I’d say. (Instead, I’d say “I have a car, I have blue eyes.”)

Something I realize I did not make clear ealier. I also would not say this to indicate an ongoing state of affairs - that I’m a homeowner & car owner. For that, like you, I would say “I have a car”. But I would say “I got a car” to indicate that I came into possession of a (new) car.

“I got a rock.” (I always thought Charlie Brown would have shed his loser label if he just ran around screaming “I gotta rock!”)

My fourth grade teacher handed back a paper to me and said, “Don’t use “got”; it’s an ugly word and there is always a better alternative.” I haven’t always followed that advice, but she was right.

This makes perfect sense. So then the “ongoing state of affairs” use is the one employed in pop music: “I got you, babe.”

Adds nothing but maybe emphasis:
I have got too much to do this weekend=I have too much to do this weekend.

And “get” can mean a lot of things.

(understand) Did you get the joke?
(acquire) Did you get a new car?
(trap, harm, kill) The mafia is going to get him.
(become) He gets angry easily.
(receive) Give as good as you get.
(enlist someone) I get my friend to help me.
(contract) He doesn’t wear a mask and will probably get COVID.

When you substitute the parenthetical part it seems more precise, doesn’t it? Did you understand the joke vs. Did you get the joke?

get on it and get the job done…a get together…get over it…from the getgo…get up and boogie…get down with your bad self…that ho really gets around…

“Get down on it”.

First, only the first of your three examples would be seen as “wrong” in any American dialect I’m familiar with. “I’ve got” is used pretty much everywhere in colloquial speech here. So is the “got” in “I have got to start my diet soon” but that is being used as an intensifier. It’s equivalent to “I really need to start a diet soon,” where “really” is an adverb. Only the first sentence is normally a marker of incorrectness, “feeling” wrong to most educated speakers as incorrect grammar, something that’s very different from incorrect usage.

Second, since I asked to see examples from dialects I wasn’t familiar with, I have got no problem with posters supplying some. Since I’m using fairly formal English to make my point in the first paragraph, that use of “have got” would stand out for some people even though I’m posting in an environment that is normally quite casual.

Third, your examples appear to me to be colloquial usage, which I agreed used “have got” freely. If you actually mean they would be acceptable in formal speech or writing, I’d be surprised, but again I’m asking for citations, not laying down rules.

But here’s a cite to start us off, from BritishCouncil.org:

In British English we use have got more in speaking and have more in writing – it’s a little more formal.