Thursday, September 6, 2012

Writing 101: Is Gotten Good Grammar?

The word gotten just sounds wrong to me sometimes, yet it always comes out of me naturally. I noticed it earlier when I was writing an email to someone; I typed out that I had gotten something, then quickly backspaced and put in the more majestic received instead. Then I realized, I don't actually know if gotten is good grammar or not. It sounds like slang and somehow seems wrong when I see it on my screen, but it still has its place in the English language. In fact, I've quite recently learned all about it. 


Have Got

Gotten is a past tense form of the verb to get. Get just means have, hold, receive. It can also be used to mean to experience ("I got sick"). The past tense form of get is got; the past participle of got is gotten. A past participle is a word that's used with had, have or has. 

Therefore, it's perfectly acceptable to use gotten if it's being used with its companion word. I have gotten sick before. ...Unless, of course, you're in Britain. 

They stopped using gotten when Queen Victoria was still ruling England, and that was a long time ago (pre-Civil War). But people in the States never did stop using it, so it's still proper English if you're on that side of the world.

That said, I still don't like the word. Gotten can just about always be replaced with prettier words like obtained or acquired, which look much lovelier on the page. In dialogue, however, gotten may sound more natural to your inner reading voice. If gotten seems to make the text flow just the right way, type it on in there -- because yes, it's proper English and when used the right way it's perfectly good grammar.

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61 comments:

  1. I feel the same way. That gotten is an acceptable word, but there are so many better words out there to choose from.

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  2. Haha I am such a "Gotten" nerd. I always use it and I aso seem to realize how bad it looks on paper. Good tips I shall think about it next time I review something thanks Jade!

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    1. Gotten, no way replace with received, have got. Gotten is lazy American gramma for people that can't speach enplish. You don't gotten off to a bad start you get off to a bad start. Thankyou unknown I agree totally, last week you didn't gotten sick . last week you got sick. It's the same as 2 times,it doesn't exist. The option is twice. Eg to do something twice. Not two times.

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    2. Using 'gotten' in texts, emails or conversation is bad enough, in my eyes. It indicates a lack of vocabulary. For an author to use it is just lazy writing, plain and simple. A writer should embellish, not use shortcuts. I'm always disappointed when even my favourite authors use the word, as I expected more from them.

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    3. wow, gotten is hardly the same as having run around the block two times, or twice: either one of those in most contexts is absolutely acceptable. I have gotten sick several times in my life...sometimes it doesn't seem so bad. I could have easily become nauseated by some of the snobby attitudes regarding the word gotten, and will attempt to incorporate it into my speech in a proper, but annoying way henceforth.

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  3. I don't even like 'got'. Just a weird personal preference of mine, but it sounds so... bleh. I don't think I ever use gotten, because I can think of so many other better-sounding words than that.

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    Replies
    1. Not liking a word is for me largely due to its colour. Gotten is brown and green, mucky tones, whereas 'received' has raspberry red & scarlet,and the sweet blue in the middle. Rich blue ends it with 'd'.

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  4. "Get/got/gotten" is at least consistent with "forget/forgot/forgotten"!

    Having said that, sometimes "gotten" sounds acceptable ("They have gotten off to a bad start"), but at other times sounds all wrong ("I haven't gotten time for this!").

    Love English, it's not bound by logic :)

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    1. I am sure glad English is my first language and both my parents were English teachers - plus I read a lot as a child. Gotten has never sounded right to me. I hate needing to use extra words like have, has, or had when it feels more comfortable to just say, "last week I got sick" than "last week I had gotten sick" It just seems like redundant past tense.

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    2. No need for 'got' or 'gotten'. Last week I was sick. Simple and to the point.

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    3. I was sick last week too! What a coincidence. Don't know how I got sick, but it was a real b ... bear.

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    4. Your first example of gotten is correct. The second example not only sounds wrong, it is wrong-- assuming I understand your meaning correctly-- If you mean the same thing as "I don't have time for this," then "I haven't got time for this" is the correct form of got to use. The first example ("They have gotten off to a bad start") describes something which began in the past. But, (again assuming the meaning above), "I haven't got time" is describing your current state, so you would not be using a past participle. By the way, I seem to be in the minority here, but "gotten" has always sounded perfectly natural to me, and I usually prefer it, especially in informal situations. A lot of other options would seem unnecessarily fancy coming from me.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. I'm so glad to have found this! I googled it because I questioned the same thing as I began to type the word. Thanks for posting!

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  7. Got it, and although it took a while to get it, it's good to have gotten over my problem so now I must be getting going.

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  8. For a global audience, gotten can usually be replaced with got or have got. It's old English that's still used in the States and Canada.

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  9. The best part is when Brits think it's American encroachment into their "pristine" vernacular.

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    1. no the best part is when she sucks mt dick

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    2. Why yes, Ingrid, I think you speak for the entire group with that sentiment.

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    3. That isn't quite true: in fact, British people are increasingly using 'gotten', having dumped it in favour of 'got' back in the late 1890s. America, being a much bigger and therefore more linguistically conservative country, can be thanked for holding on to quite a few archaisms. Inevitably, those old words are creeping back into British English whence they came, as US culture increasingly dominates that of all the other anglophone countries, especially among the young. I'm glad to welcome any fresh words, whether old friends or new coinages.

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    4. The USA has zero official national language or languages - English is the language of the English in England - The clue is in the name - End of

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    5. I think the idea that the English or the British are increasingly using the word gotten is fanciful. I never hear it in any context. The odd Australian may use it but much of Australian language (and much else) is an interesting hybrid of both US/UK English. Another word that non-US English speakers cannot understand the use of is e.g. 'bring' in place of I will take. I'm sure to US ears it sounds natural (like gotten) but to others it feels very wrong (not saying it is wrong obv.)

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    6. Here are two examples of context for you:
      (1) Ill-gotten gains
      (2) (lyrical) He hath gotten himself the victory
      I can't bring myself to use "gotten" under any other circumstances.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Americans use gotten as if it were the only verb in their vocabulary. They have forgotten verbs such as became, received, arrived etc. I don't know who they mean by Brits! Scots, Welsh, English? As dumb as a box of rocks!

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    1. True. Very true. Further, the principle of 'economy of speech' is largely forgotten. Many times people will say "I have gotten that" or "I have got that" instead of "I have that". It isn't rocket science - I learned this in year 4 for cryin' out loud! People, especially Americans (geberally) are just lazy with speech and copy each other without thinking or caring. Some of the laziest most slovenly and bastardized English is from Americans. I won't mention a specific race/ethnicity subset over there but there is one. I'm certainly no racist I am just saying what I observe. I think you can guess which one and it has the highest proportion of poverty along with the absolute worst example of spoken English. The teens of the world seem to lap up this particular style of speech as it sounds so 'cool'. Poor souls. I try to keep my kids away from it all but that's a losing battle. TV & internet now make a mockery of national boundaries in such matters.

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    2. I am hard-pressed to think of any "manner" of which the internet has not made a mockery.

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  11. Break sentences down into bite-size ideas. Then delete what you don’t need. Think Hemingway, not Dickens.



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    1. English is the language of the English, end of

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  12. AMERICANS DREAMING UP WORDS AGAIN.

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  13. getting ready for exams takes a lot of efforts cause you have to remember all the exclusions from all the rules and that's why you have to take a look here for some writing tips. (you will find tips from writing essay hooks till choosing proper ending )

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  14. OMG... Thank you! I have been questioning this for a long time now...

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  17. After reading dozens of books with this word in them, and whilst writing my own novel, someone has come up with the right answer to Gotten. Personally, I think the word sounds horrible to say the least.

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  18. Barsardizied English
    analyze - analyse
    apologize - apologise
    behavior - behaviour
    canceling - cancelling
    catalog - catalogue
    center - centre
    check - cheque
    color - colour
    encyclopedia - encyclopaedia
    favorite - favourite
    fiber - fibre
    fulfill - fulfil
    gray - grey
    humor - humour
    jewelry - jewellery
    labor - labour
    license - licence (noun)
    pajamas - pyjamas
    practice - practise (verb)
    theater - theatre
    tire - tyre

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  19. And the one that’s really annoying: thru/through not to mention how they pronounce route!

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  20. If I received a job application with the word gotten in it the applicant wouldn't get as far as an interview.

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  21. I have heard the word "gotten" a lot lately and it bothers me. I hear people using it on the radio (BC Canada) and with everywhere, and yet I don't recall this word being used as I grew up or even before the last 10 years or so? So it is American, I suppose it is used on TV sitcoms etc...and Canadians watch a lot of USA TV. Perhaps that is it. I don't like it....I refuse to use it. I got a cold is fine, but gotten anything sounds ridiculous to my ear. Good old Queen Victoria...also while on this, went is being used poorly also, as in "I wished I had went there"...hear this all the time...it should be I wished I had gone there. What is happening?? Argh!

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  22. I am sad that Fowler was not quoted as an authority, but I suppose that he was English and now out of date with the plethora of "buzz words" invading our language.

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  23. Grammarly Cost
    Language is an important part of expressing ourselves to the whole world. It is needed while we are speaking to someone and also when we are writing something. The language that we talk often tends to have colloquialisms, and the grammar isn't always perfect. But it does reflect into our writings. Along with that, we aren't always able to write in perfect grammar.

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  24. An alternative word is not just prettier; it is more concise and often saves people from word salads. All of this started because a high school assistant principal posted that she "was glad to have gotten the chance to meet ...". A simple "I was glad to meet... is concise and conveys the same thing. Why do people "get hurt". Hurt is the verb. It's also a lazy word. Most anything can be written with something more specific. It's also often misused as a past participle, as with "He got sentenced". He was sentenced. Simple past tense, conjugated with the verb to be. Its such a go to word that it's often used serially. A sports announcer will say "he's got to get". A simple "he needs" is more concise. So, thanks everyone who got to get their eyes on my comments that I just got done getting down in this post :)

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  25. I was born and raised in England and never heard the word gotten until I met my American husband. I now live happily in the USA and come across this word frequently. I just thought it was bad English. I googled it because my pharmacist used it in a piece of literature about a shot so I then became interested in the word. How interesting to read all the comments on it, especially the one that mentions - forget, forgot and forgotten. This says it all. I wonder why gotten was dropped, by the English, around the time of Queen Victoria. Thank you everyone for helping me to understand why this word exists in proper English.

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  26. I'm not keen on the word "gotten" either, nor the Americanising (is that a word?) of many spellings as others have mentioned above. But I also realise that language grows and develops organically... would Shakespeare recognise the English language that is spoken now, even in the mother country England?

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  27. Worse is the use of abbreviations in text/chat messaging now. A whole generation may be losing the ability to spell words correctly and use the written language effectively.

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    1. The use of abbreviations in texts has become so prolific that they have made their way into the Oxford English Dictionary.

      Whatevs, simples, chillax, sumfin and Jafaican have all been added in the last 10yrs.

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  28. "Last week I was sick" does not mean the same thing as "I've been sick," which is more expansive in meaning. For example, "I've been sick" means any time in the past and leading up to the present. If you were sick last week and are still getting over it this week, you'd say "I've been sick."

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  30. The American language is lazy English, if they cannot see a use for a particular letter then it is not used. We all read it and can see the meaning but it is not English it is American.

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