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When someone tells me something, how should I respond, "I get it" or "I got it"? I have a feeling that "I got it" means "I already knew the thing before you told me," and "I get it" means "Now I know the thing, because you just told me."

Is that right?

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First of all, It's usually "I've got it". But that's just nit-picking.

Native English speakers usually use either interchangeably to mean the same thing, that is, they understand now. There doesn't seem to be a difference in meaning or usage due to the different verb tense.

They also sometimes add "now": "I've got it now" or "I get it now".

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    All true, but lots of people have no idea they're saying "I['ve] got it," just as many people (even professional writers) write "would of" instead of "would've", or "use to" instead of "used to". – Kyle Pearson Sep 16 '11 at 10:13
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This is the usage to which I prescribe:

I get it now (that you have explained it more clearly)
I got it the first time(, there was no need to repeat yourself).

Most people aren't as particular, and will use the two interchangeably.

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    "I got it" is ungrammatical, and while it may correspond to the pronunciation used by many native speakers, in truth what sounds like "I got it" is the contracted form of "I've got it." Just because people don't know that's what they're saying doesn't mean that's not what they're saying; it just means they're unreflective about their language usage and need to learn to defer to those of us who actually think about what we're saying. – Kyle Pearson Sep 16 '11 at 10:15
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    It's ungrammatical in Standard English, but not necessarily so in other dialects. – Barrie England Sep 16 '11 at 18:52
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    @Kyle: "I got it" is the past tense of "I get it". It is perfectly grammatical. If you were looking for your lost wallet, and you found it, wouldn't both I've found it! and I found it! be appropriate grammatical responses? – Peter Shor Sep 16 '11 at 21:20

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