What's correct, "he had GOT some" or "he had GOTTEN some"?

What’s correct, “he had GOT some” or “he had GOTTEN some”?


I disagree with the claim that “got means you obtained something in the indefinite past, and gotten means you recently acquired it.” That’s not how I use the words.

I understand the statement “We have gotten ten thousand dollars for laboratory equipment” as indicating that the money was acquired over a period of time (and not necessarily recently) – and that it was quite possibly already spent – while the statement “We’ve got ten thousand dollars for laboratory equipment” means that the funds are currently on hand.

I agree that “have gotten” or “had gotten” refers to the process of obtaining or getting; it may have been recently with respect to the time of reference, or not so much. “Have got” or “had got” can be used the same way, but in AmE tends more toward the meaning of static possession or ownership. Girrafe’s message board add says, “We’ve got your cat”, and means they have my cat, right now, but they might not have done the actual getting. AmE uses the pluperfect tense significantly less than BrE, so “had gotten” meaning “had obtained sometime in the prior past” may sound a little strange to our ears, but is correct nevertheless.

According to my Cassell’s German/English dictionary, “gotten” is still acceptable in BrE in fossilized phrases like “ill-gotten gains”.

Like this:

I have got a big toe.

I have gotten an infection in my big toe.

Don’t worry, it’s fine now.

“Have gotten” means “have received”.

“Have got” means “currently possess”.

If I have gotten something, then I received it in the indefinite past, and it may be gone now. If I have got something, I currently possess it regardless of when and how I came to get it.

Both ‘got’ and ‘gotten’ are often used redundantly…

Looking at Ghardester’s examples above;
I have got a big toe.

I have gotten an infection in my big toe.*

Both sentences convey the same meaning without ‘got’ or ‘gotten’.

*I have a big toe.

I have an infection in my big toe.*

You would only use ‘got’ if you were describing the process of how you acquired the infection.

I got an infection in my big toe while digging in the garden.

I got this case of lockjaw from the infection in my big toe.*
I agree that “gotten” is archaic, and should only be used to convey a character trait in dialogue or am atmosphere in narrative.

Other examples from above…

We’ve got your cat
We have your cat*


We’ve your cat

works if you’re some English pikey in a Guy Ritchie movie…

We have gotten ten thousand dollars for laboratory equipment

We have ten thousand dollars for laboratory equipment*

They all have the same meaning. The fact that it is in your possession implies that you ‘got it’ somehow. Without the description of the “process” that ‘got’ is referring to, it is redundant.

Cecil’s point is that the sentence with “gotten” doesn’t convey precisely the same meaning if the word is omitted. “Gotten” adds the nuance, to some listeners anyway, that you recently acquired an infection.

I think it is probably poor grammar to combine any conjugation of ‘have’ with any form of ‘got’. They each should stand alone.

I got sick.

I have a cold.

I got a cold.

You wouldn’t say ‘I have gotten a cold’, it is kind of redundant, and difficult to say anyway.

That’s not English as she is spoke 'round these parts. Are you British?

[sub]damn edit window[/sub]

I certainly would:
Inquisitor: You can’t stay home unless you’re sick. Have you got a cold?
The accused: I have gotten a cold.
Inquisitor: I see. tightens the thumb screws Have you got a cold?
The accused: But it’s such a nice day out… ow! No, sir. I need those to type, you know.

kfraser34, you might wish to investigate the perfect tense.


Have and got may have similar meanings, but when using the perfect tense of get, you have to string them together.

What value the perfect tense is I will leave as an exercise for the reader. :wink:


Inquisitor: You can’t stay home unless you’re sick. Do you have a cold?
The accused: I got a cold.
Inquisitor: I see. tightens the thumb screws Do you have a cold?
The accused: But it’s such a nice day out… etc

Not the same, the Inquisitor tighted the thumb screws as punishment for my playing word games. “I have gotten a cold” doesn’t clearly answer the question, “Do you have a cold?” The “have gotten” phrasing suggests that I no longer have the cold. It doesn’t rule out the possibility that I still have the cold, but it does waggle its eyebrows and wink.

To answer your comment, “I got a cold” rings oddly in my ear. It might be correct, but it feels wrong.

I wonder if we should start with the original present tense verb get; I wonder if this verb now has two shades of meanings:

Acquisition: “I get $200 for passing ‘Go’.”
Possession/Indeterminate time of acquisition: “I get HBO in my cable package”, “I get free shipping with my account.”

In this light, the differences in the perfect make sense to me:

“I have gotten $200 for passing ‘Go’”
“I have got HBO in my cable package”, “I have got free shipping with my account.”

In that last case, if you said “I have gotten HBO in my cable package”, I’d think you either (1) had just hung up the phone with the cable salesman, or (2) wanted to emphasize your newly-premium cable status, compared to the last time we watched TV at your house.

But grammar arguments–like academic arguments–are always so fierce because there is so little at stake. I predict this thread has got a long life, and will have gotten a lot of posts by the end:-)

No, these two statements have clearly different connotations to most Americans. The initial statement implies that the money was gifted to the speaker and his associates, whether via grant or what have you. The second statement merely states the fact of possession without indicating provenance; specifically, the money could have come from interest on an endowment or from reserves leftover from a previous project. One would never say “We have gotten ten thousand dollars for laboratory equipment” unless that sum was specifically given for that specific purpose.
Powers &8^]

This all reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s complaint that, thanks to America, the British had lost the distinction between “I don’t have indigestion” and “I haven’t got indigestion” in his lifetime.

I have to admit that when I was first thinking about it, I was thinking about writing not speaking… then I thought about how I would use it in speech… Yes I would use it to refer to a recent event… but I still think that it you use ‘got’ you should be adding some type of specification as to what process ‘got’ is referring to…

To continue on what I am saying above… without adding where you ‘got’ the grant or for what purpose it was ‘got’ the sentence never seems correct to me… With proper explaining I don’t think the word is used properly…

From my POV (not American) it only has negative connotations when used in speech… Poorly spoken teenage (sub)urbanite speech like “I got me some” or “I got this”… Or Yosemite Sam blastin guns in the air “I got me a varmint”…

Not to say that it can’t be used more elegantly… but it seems to be used as a shortcut for explaining yourself in practical contemporary usage…

He was right, I didn’t grasp the distinction. Here is the quote, (source)

Seems to me the problem with that usage is in the word “indigestion”.

The first use is a temporary condition, the second is a chronic condition.

Actually, no. “having indigestion” is a chronic condition, while “getting indigestion” is a temporary. Or at least that’s how matters stood in England a century ago.