Both “got” and “gotten” are common terms in North America, but other English dialects do not use “gotten” at all. So why is this? And what is the exact difference between “got” and “gotten”? Check out our guide below to find out how to avoid errors when using these terms.
Present and Simple Past Tenses of “Get”
The present tense verb “get” has several meanings, including:
Come to have or receive something (e.g., I hope we get a good reception)
Attain, achieve, or obtain something (e.g., I get a newspaper every day)
Reach a condition or state (e.g., He will get fat if he eats the whole cake)
This applies in all English dialects. So, if you are using the simple present or past tense in your writing, the only terms you will need are “get” and “got.”
Past Participles: “Got” and “Gotten” in American English
We use past participles to form the present and past perfect tenses, which both show that an action has been completed. This verb form will follow “have,” “has,” or “had” in a sentence. And American English uses both “got” and “gotten” as past participles:
We use “got” when referring to a state of owning or possessing something.
We use “gotten” when referring to a process of “getting” something.
For example, if we were describing the process of “getting better” at something, we would use the past participle “gotten” in the perfect tenses:
She had gotten better in the last year.
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But if we were describing possessing enough time for something, we would use “got.” For example:
I have got enough time for a coffee before I go out.
The same usage applies in Canadian English. However, the term “gotten” is much rarer outside North America.
Past Participles in Other English Dialects
In other English dialects, the correct past participle form of “get” is always “got.” For instance, if we were to rewrite the examples above for a British audience, we would say:
She had got better in the last year.
I have got enough time for a cup of tea.
Notice that both sentences use “got” as a past participle. As such, if you’re writing for a non-American audience, you will not need the word “gotten.” In fact, the only time this term is used in dialects such as British and Australian English is in old-fashioned terms like “ill-gotten.”
Summary: Got or Gotten?
In American English, “got” and “gotten” can both be past participles of the verb “get.” The correct term depends on what you are describing:
Use got when referring to a state of possessing something.
Use gotten when referring to a process of “getting” something.
However, “gotten” is extremely rare outside North American (especially in formal writing). As such, you should always use “got” when you’re writing for a non-American audience. And if you want to be certain your writing is the best it can be, don’t forget to have it proofread.