"Have you gotten a copy of the new Don DeLillo yet?"



I was ready to ask a literary friend of mine that question when my husband, a managing editor with more than a passing interest in grammar, hollered, "Gotten is rotten! At least that's what Mrs. Stearn told us in tenth grade."


But is gotten actually rotten? Where did this grammar dictum come from?


First, some basic grammar terms: Verbs have only a few basic forms, or spellings, that combine with various auxiliary verbs to create the 6, 9, or 12 tenses in English. (The number of tenses depends on which grammarian you consult.)


Base form is the infinitive minus "to"

Present form is the 3rd person singular, sometimes known as the "-s" form

Past form is the simple past, known as the "-d" form, whether or not it ends in "-d"

Past participle is the "-en" form, whether or not it actually ends in "-en"



base: get

present: gets

past: got

past participle: Is it gotten or got?


Depends on which kind of English you speak: the Queen's or Queens English.


That is, British speakers use the "got" form as both the past and past participle, but American speakers use "gotten" as the past participle. Brits absolutely hate this usage, considering it a substandard Americanism.


Yet "gotten" has been used in English since the Middle Ages. Gradually, it fell out of use and into ignominy in the UK but was picked up and preserved by Americans.


Americans find the "gotten" form especially useful to indicate acquisition or the process of obtaining rather than possession. That is, "she has got a lot of money" means "she currently possesses quite a pile of simoleans," while "she's gotten a lot of bad press" means she has received bad press.


Certainly, "gotten" has gotten bad press. What answers have you gotten/got? Where do you come down on this question?

0 Kudos
by Blogger Jill_Dearman on ‎01-27-2010 01:22 PM

Thanks, Ellen. At last I've GOTTEN it, by cotton ...

by Jules934 on ‎01-30-2010 12:04 AM

Hmmmmmm well it depends. . .


I have  gotten older in the past few days.




I 've got to have those shoes!


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