In American English, is the following sentence grammatical?

If I had run faster, I wouldn’t have got left.

  • 1
    In UK English, most people would probably argue that the use of get (got, here) as an auxiliary is ungrammatical or at least very poor style. A teacher would probably mark your sentence wrong. However, if you'd added the simple word behind after left, the same teacher might well have been quite happy with your sentence. There is no better replacement for Watson's reply: "Got shot!" in the first episode of Sherlock. It conveys the necessary punch, which "I was shot" falls far short of doing. The use of get as an informal auxiliary is probably more common in the US; I'd use it sparingly. Nov 11, 2012 at 20:40
  • I think the same applies to American English. I'd say "..., I wouldn't have been left behind"; "..., I wouldn't have gotten left behind" is ungrammatical and unnatural in my idiolect.
    – user21497
    Nov 12, 2012 at 2:08

1 Answer 1


It sounds quite colloquial, but then, the phrasal verb “to get left [behind]” always does. In any event, it should probably instead be:

  • If I’d run faster, I wouldn’t have gotten left.

As opposed to the simple past:

  • Because I didn’t run faster, I got left.

This is because in North America, “have got” normally means that you possess something.

  • I don’t think I’ve got that one with me any longer.
  • I’ve got just one thing to say to you, young man, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

There are all kinds of “to get XXX” phrasal verbs that work the same way as to get left:

  • I haven’t gotten stuck with the bill before.
  • I hadn’t ever gotten up so early before.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so drunk before.

Those are perfectly grammatical and natural, whereas the got versions might well draw the copyeditor’s wrathful red pen.


The construction, to get + past participle, acts as something of an anonymous passive in English.

  • They picked me for captain. I was picked for captain by them. What happen to you today? Me, I got picked for captain — how ’bout you, sport?
  • They called me into the office today. I was called into the principal’s office today. I got called into the office today.
  • Why so glum? They sent me home from school today. I got sent home from school today.
  • My teacher yelled at me today. I was yelled at by my teacher today. I got yelled at today. I’d never gotten yelled at before.
  • They harassed her. She was harassed by them. She got harassed. She’s gotten harassed before.
  • The fox ate the hen. The hen was eaten by the fox. What happened to the hen? The hen got eaten. How? I dunno, by a fox, maybe.
  • They killed him. He was killed by them. He got killed. He’d gone and gotten himself killed the day before his discharge.
  • His friends left him for dead. He was left for dead. He got left for dead. He’d been left behind before. He’d gotten left behind before.
  • The bank really screwed you over that time. You were really screwed by the bank that time. You really got screwed that time. I’d never gotten so screwed as that time when the bank repossessed my tricycle.
  • My boss promoted me today. I got promoted today.

One advantage of the get VERBed kind of passive is that it doesn’t require you to say who VERBed you.

  • 1
    I would also use "have gotten" here, but I think "have got" where "got" is an auxiliary verb isn't that unusual. Consider this Ngram. Before 1940, "have got married" was more common than "have gotten married" in American English, and it's not unusual today. So I would say that it's quite colloquial, but not unknown. Nov 11, 2012 at 20:57
  • @PeterShor Yes, I’ve noticed that it is different today compared with a hundred years ago.
    – tchrist
    Nov 11, 2012 at 21:00
  • Only addition I would make -- or emphasize, since you mention it in passing -- is that the "behind" is normally added (at least in AmE). Nov 11, 2012 at 21:13
  • "One advantage of the get VERBed kind of passive is that it doesn’t require you to say who VERBed you." How is that different from "be VERBed"? Isn't that pretty much the case for all kinds of passives?
    – dainichi
    Nov 12, 2012 at 8:34

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