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I’ve been told before that I should always avoid the word “got”.

I was reading another question and the phrase “I got burnt” was being thrown around quite a bit, whereas I think “I was burnt” sounds much better grammatically.

Similarly, instead of “I got some mail”, “I received some mail”, and, “I earned straight A’s” instead of “I got straight A’s”.

Is there any basis for this, or are there times when “got” really is the best choice?

  • August 13, 2005
  • Posted by gp2
  • Filed in Grammar

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Avoid it at your peril


m56 September 6, 2005 @ 10:33AM

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"Get" has a bad reputation. Yet it's got solid provenance: by Middle English out of Old Norse. "Get" has been around for so long that it's acquired multitudinous meanings. It's a strong word, sharp and guttural, which, I suspect, is why it's suspect.

So what's wrong with "get," which Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" calls "one of the more important verbs in English"? They say it's because "get" is perceived to be "vigorous." That may be true. "Get" might be a four-letter word if it weren't a three-letter one. And there are almost always gentler words available. "Choice English" prefers gentler words, even to the point of blandness.

Get with it. Get it done. Get going. Get Carter. Get the point? There is nothing wrong with get, got or gotten. Got it?

douglas.bryant January 12, 2010 @ 11:02PM

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While there may be times when "got" is inappropriate, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It's a perfectly valid word, actually, a fundamental one, crucial to the language, like to be, to go, etc. Often, get and have seem to be interchangeable, but they do not mean the same thing. If you have something, it is in your possession. If you get something, then at one time it was not in your possession, but now it is. "Get" describes a change in state from not having to having.

Let's take "you have mail" vs. "you've got mail" as an example. The former means there is mail in your inbox. You are in possession of it. The latter means that there is new mail in your mailbox; that is, there is mail in your mailbox that wasn't there before. You received it. While both may be true, They do not mean the same thing at all. Consider this: if you've got mail, then, of course, you must have mail. On the other hand, if you have mail, you must have got/gotten it from somewhere, at least at some point in the past, so you've got mail. This entanglement is probably the source of some of the confusion, at least in part.

porsche January 13, 2010 @ 5:03PM

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