"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"

 

thus,

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
Comments
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.

 

vs

 

I 've got to have those shoes!

 

About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Categories