Is “Gotten” Correct?


Get: the workhorse of the English language. We give this simple little word so many uses it might be hard to list them all. Oxford Dictionaries Online places the verb get among the top five most commonly used verbs in the English language, and rightfully so. It’s so convenient you could pop it into sentences at random and almost get away with it. For the most part, it’s easy and straightforward to use. As long as you don’t start looking into its past participle though. That’s where things start getting weird, because some sources will say that the past participle of the verb get is got, and others will say it’s gotten. But, wait, doesn’t gotten sound strange and archaic? Could it possibly be okay to use it today?
The answer depends on where you are. It’s one of those British English vs. American English things that can drive you mad, and for the past participle of the verb get, the variants are used thusly:
You would use gotten in the United States and Canada;
You would use got in the rest of the world, and sometimes in the US and Canada.

Get and How to Use It

When we say that get is the workhorse of the English language, we mean it—it is used in over thirty phrasal verbs, it’s a building block for many phrases, and it has enough uses on its own to write a very long article about them. We’ll list some of the most common:
To receive something:
Bill Shorten gets cheers from the party faithful when he praises the former Labor leaders in the audience.
The Australian

To obtain something:
LinkedIn just got a new job at Microsoft. Its new title is “Acquisition Target.” Head to LinkedIn to congratulate LinkedIn on its new position!

To be in possession of something, to have:
You were simply cleaning up. Janitorial work, essentially. Everything to its proper place. Quick with the kerosene! Who’s got a match!
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

To reach a specific state, to become:
Isolate those hormones, turn them into a pill and we could have a wonder drug that stops us getting fat.
The Daily Mail

To come, go, or take into a specific place or state:
You see now that It’s your enemy and your worst personal nightmare and the trouble It’s gotten you into is undeniable and you still can’t stop.
—David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

To comprehend:
They took an unvalidated idea, hit the accelerator as hard as they could . . . and slammed straight into a concrete wall, all because they failed to get it wrong in small doses.
The Huffington Post

Got and Gotten in American English

So, if got is the past participle of get in British English, and gotten is the past participle of the same verb in American English, can they be used the other way around?
Both forms originated in Middle English. Gotten wasn’t invented by Americans. Over time, the shorter version started became standard outside of North America and gotten was relegated to archaism.
In the meantime, English-speakers in North America adopted gotten as their prefered form, but they didn’t get rid of got completely. For example when you disbelieve what someone is saying, you can voice it with “you have got to be kidding me.” In this case, have and got are used instead of must—this is what happens when you use have got before a verb in American English. If you use have got before a noun, it becomes have, as in “I’ve got a new dog.”

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