Word Choice – Have or Got

Jason’s Question: “My question is regarding the usage of the word ‘got.’ My wife constantly corrects anyone that uses the word ‘got’ in a sentence because she believes this is bad grammar.”

BizWritingTip response: Years ago, “have got” and “have gotten” were commonly used in English. About 300 years ago, the British dropped the “got” or “gotten.” However, in North America these phrases are considered acceptable, informal phrases.

You have mail (British).
You have got mail (North American style).
You’ve got mail (contracted North American style).

In North America, it is felt that using “got,” “have got,” or “have gotten” places additional emphasis on the thought being conveyed.

I have your report. (I am in possession of a copy.)
I got your report. (Your report was sent to me, and I have it now.)
He has the answer to your question. (He has it.)
He has gotten the answer to your question. (He has taken the trouble to acquire the answer.)

“Have got” also has another meaning. It is considered a stronger way of saying “must.”

I must leave by 3:00 to catch my train (correct).
I have got to leave by 3:00 to catch my train (correct but stronger).

Frankly, unless I am concerned about the emphasis, I prefer the British way. But I wouldn’t consider the other wrong – just wordy. I have to go now. I have got to go now.