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I can't figure out whether to use got or gotten in the following sentence:

I no longer recognized my own skin, my own feelings, my own thoughts. It was as if the real me had got/gotten lost on the highway.

Which is the correct form of the verb?

  • 2
    British English or American English? (BrE uses gotten only dialectally, so I suppose/guess it's AmE) – Andrew Leach Dec 3 '13 at 9:54
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    I think it is AE because the sentence also uses "recognize" and not "recognise". – user58763 Dec 3 '13 at 10:06
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    @Andrew Leach I don't really mind. I guess American. So got is AE and gotten BE? – janoChen Dec 3 '13 at 10:06
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    No, the other way round. Gotten has almost entirely disappeared in BrE. – Andrew Leach Dec 3 '13 at 10:47
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    janoChen, you can choose gotten if you use American English. If not, just use got. In the UK, gotten is normally only used when people say ill-gotten or forgotten. – Tristan r Apr 4 '14 at 16:58
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This article (emphasis mine) would be hard to improve on:

As past participles of get, got and gotten both date back to Middle English. The form gotten is not used in British English but is very common in North American English, though even there it is often regarded as non-standard.

In North American English, got and gotten are not identical in use. Gotten usually implies the [punctive act /] process of obtaining something, as in he had gotten us tickets for the show, while got implies the state [durative] of possession or ownership, as in I haven’t got any money.

[Oxford Dictionaries]

An American might well prefer 'gotten' in the OP; a Brit would probably not, and might well not like the sound of the 'got' version either, choosing to rephrase, as Preetie suggests.

  • 2
    Although, interestingly, we Brits like to say, "I've forgotten it." – Pitarou Dec 3 '13 at 11:02
  • And we might hear the odd 'begotten' during the next few weeks. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 3 '13 at 11:09
  • "In American English gotten, although occasionally criticized, is an alternative standard past participle in most senses, esp. “to receive” and “to acquire”: I have gotten (or got) a dozen replies so far." (thefreedictionary.com/get) – Kris Dec 3 '13 at 12:27
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    Even in AmE, the use of gotten in a sense of 'became' (as against 'obtained') is very rare: * gotten lost . – Kris Dec 3 '13 at 12:29
  • I can think of an improvement: mention that "got" alone (without "have") is the ordinary past tense of "get", in the same way as the difference between "ate" and "have eaten". "Have got" is an anomaly. – Random832 Dec 3 '13 at 14:31
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per The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (p.311):

"Gotten is probably the most distinctive of all the AmE/BrE grammatical differences, but British people who try to use it often get it wrong."

Gotten is much more common in AmE.

I like the sound of your use of 'gotten' in that sentence. "...had been lost" sounds so passive, whereas "...had gotten lost" sounds more tragic.

"The child had been lost on the highway." "The child had gotten lost on the highway."

Which has more impact?

1

In the example given, I would use "gotten." But that's only if you think the word "gotten" has a place in our language. To me, there is a legitimate and useful difference between "got" and "gotten." To say you've "got" something means that you have it, now. To say that you've "gotten" something means that you've obtained or received it in the past. The example given doesn't use "got/gotten" in that way, but given the continued use of the two words in American English, "had gotten lost" sounds better to my ear than "had got lost." It's more a matter of consistency than of correctness.

1

I have heard instances of how "gotten lost" is hated by the British. My copy of Grammar by Wren & Martin also lists "got" as the past participle of get.

Base Form: Get

Past Tense: Got

Past Participle: Got

However, as Andrew Leach comments, I have seen many examples of the same in American English.

If I were I you, I would simply say:

I no longer recognized my own skin, my own feelings, my own thoughts. It was as if the real me had been lost on the highway.

  • Thanks. I think you're right: been it's a better option. – janoChen Dec 3 '13 at 10:19
  • That's still not equivalent, I think. Been lost implies that you are no longer lost, while gotten lost could be that you got lost, and still are lost. – Mel Padden Dec 5 '17 at 14:02
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Having grown up in the UK, but now live in Canada, I have to say that I have never used the word "gotten" other than in words such as forgotten or ill-gotten. I used to find it hard to listen to but it no longer bothers me and seems to make sense when I hear others use it. Languages evolve and this is one of those words which has evolved differently on either side of the Atlantic - that's okay.

I was taught that got/gotten should be used sparingly as it is often redundant or clumsy. eg: "I have a cold." vs "I have got a cold." or "I have gotten a cold." "The child was lost." or "The child became lost." vs "The child had got lost." or "The child had gotten lost."

protected by tchrist Jul 1 '14 at 10:55

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