Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  'got' or 'gotten'?

I haven't got/gotten (?) enough grammar questions for the Grammar Problem of the Week feature I had back in summer, but sometimes something crops up.

My dictionary gives:

to get - got - gotten

But I come across I've got and I've gotten variants in books all the time, and to me I've got feels better despite what my dictionary says.
The Chambers Dictionary has "got" as the past participle, describing "gotten" as "archaic, Scottish and American". The Oxford English Dictionary adds that even Webster was describing "gotten" as obsolescent in 1864, although it seems to be a long time a-dying.

Having spent a few years in the US, and being a regular reader of American writing I occasionally find myself using "gotten", but only, I hope, in informal English.

Two compounds, "forget" and "beget" still use the longer versions of the past participle, but then the past tense of "beget" is often given as "begat" although "gat" as the past of "get" pretty much disappeared in the 16th Century, apart from a glorious final fling in the King James Bible of 1611.
Thank you.

No wonder I'm confuzzled. I've read a fair share of early 19th century English as well as modern Amercian books, my English teacher was an idiot, and my favourite dictionary is more than a bit outdated. On the other hand, it's very encompassing. Should buy a better modern one though, if I win in the lottery. :-)
I used to say 'gotten', until someone told me it was American and bad grammar. But if it's Scottish as well, that explains where I picked it up.
The problem, to me, is that it really means different, depending who and where says what.


An englishman (or -woman): "I've got a book", it really means he is in possession of a book

"I've got to the end of this book" means he has reached the end of the book.

An american of USA or Canada will probably say: "I have a book" and 'I've gotten to the end of the book", which clearly marks a difference.

Basically, "I have" in british english has become an auxiliary verb, therefore "I've got" to mark the possessive.

I, myself, follow the american trend for several reasons: it's more logical (the same as with many sufixes -er vs. -eur, etc), it's less insane, and it's more widespread nowadays thanks to USA exterior political trends and Hollywood, etc...

Lastly, it's what Star Trek uses... hehe... :-)

And, besides, it keeps going the strong conjugation of the english verb (which it's a declension in itself) versus the current trend of 'softening' them all with regular variants (dreamed instead of dreamt, and so on...)

Once I learn a strong verb, I find it makes a more powerful, rich language, and softening them all, besides impossible (try to soften be, can, might, and all the good irregulars and you'll only get a headache), it's like kind of poor (empoverishing the language, which should be a kind of criminal offense or something)

but I just use english to communicate with others when esperanto is not quite the right fit, thus feel free to ignore me... :-P

best regards
"It's got to be got; it can't be gotten."

What can I say? I'm English?
I'm with you on strong verbs. In Germany, there's a tendency to make the irregular ones regular which makes me cringe every time I come across one of the "wrong" forms. But since I else write British English, I should follow my gut feeling and use got.

that's what you get when you let Romans, Vikings, Saxons and French tamper with your language. :-)
I asked a linguistics expert whether 'gotten' was a word, or just a lazy Americanism. Her answer was that 'gotten' was used by the English during the Middle Ages and later.

It is interesting to note that the American language is closer to true Olde English than the modern English language is. It came about from the Puritans who maintained the syntax while the rest of the English-speaking world evolved the language; thus the use of archaic words.

Anyway, my solution would be to not use 'gotten'. I don't - 'gotten' lacks music or rhythm and upsets the sentence structure. For each instance of its' use, you can find an alternative expression.
Sometimes 'gotten' fits just fine though. Depends on what you want your sentence to sound like.

I tend to use 'got' for passive and 'gotten' for active.

Don't sweat it. I don't (but then I'm Scottish and if it doesn't involve deep-fried things we don't tend to care too much)

Thank you, all. I'll use got as default form (following my gut feeling and the rules *grin*) and gotten in special cases.

I can imagine Alastair may use it when he speaks what should be Anglonorman, because it's a foreign language for him and I have him speak a more formal English than when he talks with his own people, where he in reality speaks Gaelic.
You've got mail!

I manage to avoid 'got' and 'gotten' in speech and writing. 'Get' is a different story. I think it's fine for colloquial speech ("Let's get together" or "Did you get it?") I probably wouldn't use it in prose, with the exception of dialog.
Post a Comment

<< Home

The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places (like Flanders and the Baltic States), with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

My Photo
Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)