What is the difference between "I've gotten to do" and "I have to do"?


Hi Mom, Dad, and Sam,

The Vatican is weird! As you can see, the Catholic Church still has a lot of money left over from the Middle Ages. I've gotten to see all of the art, including the Sistine Chapel ceiling and sculptures by Michaelangelo, Donatello, and the rest of the Ninja Turtles.

1 Answer 1


“I've got to do” and “I have to do” are synonyms (or pretty nearly so), meaning roughly “I must do”.

“I've gotten to” is a different sense of the verb get. Here have is purely an auxiliary to form a past perfect, the verb get could be used in the present sense: “Today, I get to see the Sistine Chapel”. The meaning is “I have the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel, and I am taking this opportunity”.

Cambridge British English dictionary reference: get verb (have chance)

In the past tense, there is a potential confusion between “I've got(ten) to” in the sense of “I must” and “I've got(ten) to” in the sense of “I could”. This ambiguity is resolved differently in British English and American English. In British English, the past participle of get is got. In American English, the past participle of get is usually gotten (though got is also used). In the sense of “I must”:

[BrE] I have got to see the Sistine Chapel.
[AmE] I have to see the Sistine Chapel.

In the sense of “I could”:

[BrE] I got to see the Sistine Chapel.
[AmE] I have gotten to see the Sistine Chapel.

  • 1
    +1 But actually most US speakers would say "I've got to" for "I must", just as they say "I've got" for "I have". Moreover, I believe this is originally a US usage which has been adopted by speakers of BrE and other Englishes. As for the "I could" sense, in AmE "I've gotten to see" is in free variation with "I got to see". Oct 12, 2013 at 15:12
  • Sorry, but I see quite a few issues in the answer. One of them is saying that "I have got to see x" is BrE and "I have to x" is AmE. That is simply not so. AmE speakers say things like: "I've really got to do this", all the time. Also, the second block quote example is also not really right: The idea of "get to do something" is exactly the same in BrE and AmE: I got to the see the Sistine Chapel [I had the opportunity to see it]. That sentence could be uttered by an AmE or BrE speaker.....
    – Lambie
    Apr 20, 2018 at 17:31
  • "He had been in 2C on the flight to Dubai and he hadn’t slept much on the plane—if at all. He had worked on his laptop, he had watched movies, and he had flirted with her. He had gotten to know her much better than she had gotten to know him."
    – Zhang
    Jun 23, 2021 at 3:43
  • I don't think this "had gotten to" above means "had to ".
    – Zhang
    Jun 23, 2021 at 3:44
  • @Zhang It's the same meaning as in the question here: “He had had the opportunity to know her …” Jun 23, 2021 at 7:26

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