Got or Gotten

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
When do you use "gotten" and "got"?

Brits do not use "gotten" nowadays, but it still features in some old terms like ill-gotten gains. Americans use "gotten" to show the process of obtaining but "got" to show possession or ownership. For example:
  • He has gotten her a ring.
  • He has got a ring.
Americans also use "got" with "got to" when it means must. For example:
  • He has got to improve.

Got or Gotten?

Writers are sometimes unsure whether to use got or gotten as the past participle of to get. It is fairly accurate to say that Americans use gotten while Brits use got, but that is not the whole story.
  • She has gotten herself flustered.
  • She has got herself flustered.

"Got To" Meaning "Must"

With the term got to (meaning must), Americans use got not gotten. For example:
  • I have got to leave soon.
  • (This means "I must leave soon.")
  • I have got to leave soon.

"Got" Meaning "Have"

When got means have, Americans use got not gotten. For example:
  • I have got a pet spider.
  • (This means "I have a pet spider.")
  • I have got a pet spider.

Brits Sometimes Use "Gotten"

Gotten was the original past participle of to get. (It predates the forming of the United States by hundreds of years.) In fact, gotten still features in some British terms. For example:
  • Are these your ill-gotten gains?
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are nouns? Jewelry and jewellry List of easily confused words