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



    APA Editor Services

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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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