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I came across the phrase 'I got this' in an episode of 'How I Met Your Mother'. In the episode, Robin kept saying 'I got this' whenever something came up that needs dealing with. I guess it means 'Leave this to me. I can handle it'. Urban Dictionary says it's short for 'I got this under control.' I think the omission makes sense.

The thing I don't understand is why past tense is used here. When you use 'I got this', you are referring to something in the present, not in the past. Maybe you can get it under control, but you haven't gotten it under control yet. Why do you use past tense?

Here is an example from Urban Dictionary:

You're are driving a truck full of your stoner friends. The car in front of you slams on its breaks and all of your wasted friends are screaming that they are going to die.

You scream "I GOT THIS!!!" and then you stop your car just inches away from the car's bumper.

It is very clear that you had screamed 'I got this' before you actually got it under control.

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It comes from I've got this; it's an Americanism, and it's generally considered to be bad grammar. –  Peter Shor May 13 '12 at 9:58
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When you accept an answer to this, please add the comment "gotcha". ;) –  JeffSahol May 13 '12 at 12:27
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@PeterShor I can't dismiss such a commonly used phrase as simply ungrammatical. =.= –  Betty May 13 '12 at 13:19
    
@JeffSahol Good joke. But that one is actually different. In "gotcha", the beginning of the sentence "I" and "have" is omitted. That's fine. Reserving "I" and omitting only "have" is another thing. –  Betty May 13 '12 at 13:25
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The use of "got" in any such usage where the context is present tense, the "got" intends to emphasize the surety/need for urgency. "Surety" as in "Don't worry, I got (confidence that he/she already has a plan to take care of the task, so consider it's already being attended) it" or urgency as in "I got (its so urgent that consider me gone already) to go". I guess that answers the question. –  Fr0zenFyr Jun 28 '12 at 6:24
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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted
+200

The OED has this usage back to 1849 so it's been around a while. It says that it comes from omitting have and is "colloquial":

b. The pa. pple. [past participle] is also used colloq. with omission of (I) have. Cf. gotcha n., gotta v.

1849 Knickerbocker 34 12 They got no principles. They got no platform to stand onto.
1857 Quinland I. 1 Got an hour to spare—thought I'd just run in and see what you were all about.
1884 ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Huckleberry Finn xxxviii. 325 We got to dig in like all git-out.
1887 M. E. Wilkins Humble Romance 370 What you got there, grandma?
1911 R. D. Saunders Col. Todhunter i. 11 Oh, of course, you got to laugh at me.
1911 J. F. Wilson Land Claimers ix. 118 But I got several plans, and I need ye.
1941 P. F. Webster & D. Ellington (title of song) I got it bad and that ain't good.
1967 L. White Crimshaw Memorandum (1968) v. 93 Gawd knows I got enough problems.


EDIT: I don't have evidence, so I didn't originally include it in my answer, but my suspicion is that:

In US informal registers, got seems to have been re-interpreted as a present-tense verb form just meaning "have, possess". It sure behaves that way. It's homophonous with, but not identical to, the past tense of get. Historically it seems to have been a resultative construction, but it acts like a normal verb now.

The only issue is if so, then the verb's defective in the 3sg: both "he/she/it got" and "he/she/it gots" are highly marked and are just avoided in most dialects. In response to Betty's inquiry, I'm not sure sure if people just say "he/she/it's got" or if we reword to avoid the issue.

Again, I got no evidence; it's just a pet theory for now.

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+1: All these references seem to be American. Is this used at all in the U.K.? –  Peter Shor Jun 27 '12 at 18:00
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I don't have evidence, so I didn't include it in my answer, but my suspicion is that in US informal registers, got has been re-interpreted as a present-tense form just meaning "have, possess". It sure behaves that way. It's homophonous with, not identical to, the past tense of "get". Historically it seems to have been a resultative construction, but it acts like a normal verb now. The only issue is the verb's defective in the 3sg: both "he/she/it got" and "he/she/it gots" are highly marked and are just avoided in most dialects. Again, I got no evidence; it's just a pet theory for now :) –  Mark Beadles Jun 27 '12 at 19:03
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Certainly, children learning to speak in the U.S. often say "he gots", which would tend to confirm that they interpret it that way. –  Peter Shor Jun 27 '12 at 19:53
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It was always my impression that there was an implied "have" there, so chalk another one up for the OED. One early reference I might mention comes from Baseball, via Looney Toons. This is from Baseball Bugs, released in 1945: youtube.com/watch?v=M2dR36mTkyo . I wouldn't be surprised if the source of this idiom wasn't Baseball lingo, and it is shortened from the original "proper" English so it could be yelled in a hurry. –  T.E.D. Jun 27 '12 at 23:48
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@T.E.D. In sports, clear communication in the shortest time possible is quite important, so "I got it" often takes precedence to "Good sir, I believe that I can handle this situation". It could be that sports talk has influenced modern speech in this way. –  Zoot Jul 2 '12 at 14:12
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"I got this" (or slightly more grammatically "I've got this") means "I've taken this on," "I know what to do about this and I'll do it," "No-one else needs to do anything."

A [rugby] footballer or cricketer (or baseball player perhaps) might call "I got this" when he's about to catch the ball falling from the sky, to indicate that he's made the decision to deal with it [same tense] and other players shouldn't interfere — which runs the risk of no-one catching it. It's now applied to other situations such as that in How I met your Mother.

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I'm afraid "he's made the decision" is not past tense, but present perfect tense. "He's made" is short for "he has made". "I've got this" is also present perfect tense, where "I've" is short for "I have". The auxiliary verb is of vital importance to present perfect tense. One can't just drop it. There must be some reason. –  Betty May 13 '12 at 13:08
    
How about colloquialism? (I've adjusted the answer) –  Andrew Leach May 13 '12 at 13:25
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I like your rugby example. :) And for colloquialism, I don't know, I think tense is a very solid part of English. People don't mess with tenses even in colloquial language. –  Betty May 13 '12 at 13:34
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@Betty: In American English, there is a difference between "got" and "gotten". "I have gotten" is the present perfect tense for "get". "I've got" is another way of saying "I have", and except for the grammatical form, there is nothing about the way it's used that corresponds to the perfect tense. So the tense of "I've got" is already messed up. It seems to me that dropping the "ve" and just using "I got" doesn't mess the tense up any more than it already was. –  Peter Shor May 13 '12 at 15:17
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the more I think about this verb 'get' the more complex it (ahem) gets. –  Mark Beadles Jul 3 '12 at 2:20
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I don't see it as being Past Tense at all.

People say "got" all the time in casual spoken English, as in "I got your back," "I got a lot riding on this one," "I'm giving it all that I got" etc. Even the ubiquitous "gtg" online (got to go).

None of these is really in the Past.

The often unrecognizable expression is "Have got," which is also different from the Present Perfect (Have P.P.).


"Have got" is the same as "Have." The added "got" is just there for rhythm and doesn't give any special meaning. It's not the same as the P.P. "gotten" (American) and "got" (British).

So it is not precise to say that we are presuming a Past (done deal) Action when we are still in the Present.

Perhaps one could say we are presuming a Present condition when the task is still in the Future, yet to be accomplished.

But the OP has already mentioned that a meeting of will and act in the Present Tense is understandable.

I also found this from BBC Learning English:

'have' / 'have got' When we are talking about possession, relationships, illnesses and characteristics of people or things we can use either have or have got. The have got forms are more common in an informal style.

Have got has the same meaning as have and both are used as present tenses.

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The use of "got" in any such usage where the context is present tense, the "got" intends to emphasize the surety/need for urgency.

Surety as in "Don't worry, I got (confidence that he/she already has a plan to take care of the task, so consider it's already being attended) it"

OR

urgency as in "I got (its so urgent that consider me gone already) to go".

That's pretty much i could think, I hope that answers the question.

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