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Take a gander at the following two versions of the same sentence:

"I got an mp4 video file"


"I have an mp4 video file"

Someone 'corrected' me by changing the first form to the second form. Is there a difference, other than the fact that the former can also be used in past tense? Maybe it's too informal?

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Yes, 'got' is more informal – Mitch Dec 23 '15 at 23:41
up vote 6 down vote accepted

"Have" is correct and can be only one thing: I possess/hold/etc. the file.

"Got" can be two things:

  • I've got the file: has the same meaning as "I have the file", but is somewhat informal; if you leave out "have/'ve", it is very informal (in this case, "got" is the past participle of "get").
  • I received the file (in this case, it is the simple past of "I get").

My guess is that your corrector either found "got" confusing, or took it as "have" but considered that too informal.

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erm, Manoochehr has it right -- "I've got" is fine, "I got" is not. – simon Jan 25 '11 at 2:12
@simon: I was trying to say that "I've got" is less formal than "I have", and that "I got" is even more informal. I made it a bit more explicit: how is it now? – Cerberus Jan 25 '11 at 3:58
I'm still with Manoochehr below - "I got" is wrong, imo, unless you mean "I received" (which, in context, the OP may well have meant - sometimes the practical difference is negligible). – simon Jan 25 '11 at 9:19
@simon: "Very informal" is code for "wrong" on this site... "got" is actually used that way by some people on some occasions. – Cerberus Jan 25 '11 at 13:50
ha! Okay, I appreciate the distinction. Of course it is indeed used by people in casual conversation -- I imagine I may well have used it that way myself. I suppose if it's good enough for the Temptations... ("I got sunshine on a cloudy day...") – simon Jan 25 '11 at 13:55

Both are correct grammatically, but mean entirely different things. "I got X" means "sometime in the past, I came into the possession of X". "I have X" means "I currently posses X".

Consider an extended version of the same: "I got an MP4 video file for Christmas". Some might argue that there are better ways to express the idea, but there's nothing terribly wrong with this one.

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You can not use got on its own as a present tense meaning 'have' or 'has' in standard English. Say that someone has something or has got something:

We've got (NOT We got) some ideas.

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But you can use it if you meant "received" or "obtained". Thus in "I just got my license yesterday" got means received and in "I just got the MP4 file" got means downloaded or obtained. Obviously a specific term like "downloaded" is more detailed and useful. – Lisa Sep 20 '11 at 5:32

Perhaps not as useful an answer, but I still recall my English teacher told my class in no uncertain terms that there's always a better word than "got".

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Bravo! If I could up vote more than once I would. – Stuart Helwig Jan 25 '11 at 10:23
Even more cringeworthy, "I've GOTTEN" – Stuart Helwig Jan 25 '11 at 10:25
I got my coat and left. – RedGrittyBrick Jan 25 '11 at 17:27
This is wrong. Many times there is a better word than "got", but try replacing it in "the ship got underway". You wouldn't say *"the ship made underway", *"the ship had underway", *"the ship started underway", *"the ship obtained underway", or *"the ship began being underway". And "the ship was underway" means something different; "the ship got underway" means it started moving, while "the ship was underway" means it already had been moving. – Peter Shor Mar 4 '14 at 15:39

I still hear my British English teacher's voice: "There is no such word as got!" unless, she qualified, it is being used as the past tense of get.

She taught that this is right: Did you get a ticket? Yes, I got a ticket. Now I have a ticket I can get in. I got in.

And this is wrong: I've got to get a ticket. It should be: I have to/must get a ticket.

Using the two verbs together was unnecessary and as she didn't ascribe to got (the past tense of get) being used for must it had to go.

Teachers, gotta love 'em :D

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Welcome to EL&U. Can you elaborate on why "I've got to get a ticket" is wrong? It is encouraged to include your reference/research when you post an answer. I would advise you to take the tour and visit our help center to see how it works here. – Rathony Dec 19 '15 at 5:47

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