April A to Z Challenge, Challenges, Editing Basics

Gotten is a rotten word.



Please, if you have the urge to use “gotten” when writing and speaking, consider the many other options available to you.


While born and raised in the Midwest of the United States, I tend to prefer good old formal-style British English. No—I don’t speak with a pseudo-accent of the “Queen’s English” like Madonna or Gwyneth, nor do I act pretentious. Perhaps it is because my parents emigrated from The Netherlands, but I do stick to a more traditional style; often the Oxford Guide to Style or Hart’s Rules. (Long live the Oxford comma!)

Present     Past (American)   Past (British)    Past Participle (English)    Past Participle (British)
get                 got                                got                            gotten                                            got

The only time I will use this word without cringing is when in uber-mother mode, asking one of my children:

“What has gotten into you?”

I know there are many proper uses of the past participle of “got”, but “gotten” sounds terrible to me.


“I’ve gotten excited about the poetry class.”

This is correct. This is ugly.
Instead: “I’ve become excited…” is far more concise and pleasing to the ear.

“We’ve gotten kittens!”

Again, correct. But when I heard my son say this to his cousins, I cringed.
Instead: “We adopted kittens!” Or even just: “We got kittens.”

“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

This is correct, but it would be simpler to say: “I would have got away with it…”
Better still, and prettier: “I would have succeeded were it not for you meddling kids!”



Some more examples: 
Future: “I have got to go to the grocery store.” (Emphasising a dire need.)
Future: “I have to go to the grocery store.” (Not quite so urgent.)
Past Participle: “I have gotten groceries.” (The ugly version.)
Instead, keep it simple: “I got groceries.” (Which means you gathered and purchased items from the grocer.)

My favorite cringe-worthy example:

 “Oh, Fred, look. She’s gotten her boobies.” (First 45 seconds.)



2 thoughts on “Gotten is a rotten word.”

  1. I don’t hear this word often, but when I do, your first example is it. Of course, I haven’t watched Scooby-Doo in years to hear about the “meddling kids.”

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