I heard this sentence from a movie. What does this mean? Each word is not difficult but I can't guess the setence's meaning.

We got a situation.


What no one seems to have mentioned is that got is a colloquial, down-register substitution for have or have got or even have gotten. In fact, it can substitute for any verb that means to acquire.

We got a dog.

This can mean

We have a dog.

You will hear this used informally all the time, but you would be well advised not to use it in academic or formal writing. If you're writing for the sports page, though, no problem.

Other meanings are:

We acquired a dog.

We purchased a dog.

We were given a dog.

Used in this sense, got is the past tense of get, and the simple past is no problem in any kind of writing or speaking. Which brings us to the next point.

As far as "We got a problem" goes, the most likely interpretation is that have has been dropped from the sentence's syntax. It's this that makes it colloquial and down-register. To promote it a level in formality, you would say

We've got a problem.

Note that using uncontracted have would be to make a more forceful statement:

We have got a problem.

Whereas the former statement is merely a more or less uncolored declaration, the latter alerts the listener that the problem is serious.

  • Google has 203 "revisionist" citations for Houston, we got a problem,, but that's as against 8,240 for Houston, we have a problem (which I assume is the historically accurate version, otherwise I'd be somewhat concerned about the academic prowess of NASA astronauts! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 10 '16 at 13:44
  • Yes, I glanced at some those 203 citations and every one of them was someone's misquotation of the actual words. This sort of thing is to be expected where everyone with Facebook is a "publisher" ... – Robusto Oct 10 '16 at 14:42
  • I've no objection in principle to usages like I got no problem with this, so long as we all understand it's colloquial / informal and may be seen as "substandard" in some contexts. But it's not always a bad thing when "famous words" get persistently misquoted - personally I've always preferred Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!. Original: Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges! in Bogie's Sierra Madre, but they got it "right" in Blazing Saddles later! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 10 '16 at 15:59
  • @FumbleFingers: My personal bête noire is misquotation #3 in this list. Twain was simply a much better writer than that. – Robusto Oct 10 '16 at 17:54
  • I didn't realise that one had been adjusted. I see now the original context was in a fairly formal-looking letter: James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration. Where it probably wouldn't have been appropriate to use the deliberately quirky format I've come to know and love, since very likely he wasn't even trying to be witty / lighthearted in that context. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 10 '16 at 18:14

: an important or sudden problem

  1. b : a critical, trying, or unusual state of affairs : problem

Without further context, it likely means we have a problem.


It means you have a problem. But not just any problem, but a very serious problem. If a customer comes to your shop complaining about something they bought, then you have a problem. If that customer carries a gun, then you have a situation.

So you may hear "we have a situation" quite regularly if you watch action movies. In real life, I haven't ever used "we have a situation" or heard it used.

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