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a. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might get arrested.

b. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might have gotten arrested.

Are both grammatically correct?

I think (a) means:

  1. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they would possibly get arrested.

and (b) could mean the same or it could also mean:

  1. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they had probably been (already) arrested.

In '2' the arrest takes place before the criticism.

Is that correct?

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  • You might want to know that "get arrested" is informal for "be arrested". – Lambie Jun 25 at 14:13
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the arrest takes place before the criticism. Is that correct

No. While b could possibly be used when the arrest occurred first, without additional context it would not be understood that way. The normal meaning is the same as a. To indicate the prior arrest one might say:

In those days, if someone criticized the government, they had probably already been arrested.

The problem with

a. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might get arrested.

is that "might have gotten" seems to be looking forward from the moment of the speech to the possible arrest, using a conditional form to discus an event long determined, but whose outcome is unknown. "Get" here is a present form, generally used to describe future events, because the point-of-view is placed after the speech and before the possible arrest.

b. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might have gotten arrested.

This is using a present perfect form, to indicate a sequence of events, but it feels a bit akward to me. 'Have gotten" is a purely US form, and is one often misused and thus regarded with suspicion by some. This Ask the Editor page describes the ways in which it is used, and b isn't quite any of them.

I would express the sense of both a and b with:

c. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might have been arrested.

or perhaps

c2. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might well have have been arrested.

just for emphasis. Another form, a bit strounger, is:

d. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they would probably have been arrested.

stronger yet is

d. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they would have been arrested

"Would have " expresses an event in the past supposed to have occurred, but not known to have actually occurred. It is used for deductions or suppositions about past events, so it fits well here, and avoids the issue of "gotten". It is also natural in both UK and US English.

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    might have been arrested=standard English. might get arrested: informal English; might have gotten arrested: informal AmE; might have got arrested, informal BrE – Lambie Jun 25 at 14:16
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    @Lambie Yes but "might have been" is a present perfect form, while "might get" is the simple present. the corresponding form using "get" is "might have got" or "might have gotten" and I thing the version using "be" is better here. – David Siegel Jun 25 at 14:25
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In my opinion I don't think they are both correct. Sentence 2 actually makes more sense than the first one and it even looks better on the grammar scale

First sentence should be like :

In those days, if someone criticized the government, they could get arrested

OR

In those days, if someone criticized the government, they could have gotten arrested

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  • they might got arrested << Is "might got" grammatical? – user1677 May 26 at 7:09
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    @user1677 No, it isn't. Perhaps it is a typo on Atrin Noori's part. – rjpond May 26 at 7:29
  • Or a very insufficient knowledge of English! – Ronald Sole May 26 at 8:13
  • @user1677 Oh yeah Thanks for noticing... no it is not – Atrin Noori May 26 at 10:15
  • You don't explain why you think form a incorrect or these forms are better. – David Siegel Jun 25 at 14:16
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I believe both the statements mean almost the same. But have made a grammatical correction for the 2nd sentence :

a. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might get arrested.

a means In those days, if someone criticized the government, they would possibly get arrested.

b. In those days, if someone criticized the government, they might have got arrested.

b means In those days, if someone criticized the government, it is more certain that they would get arrested.

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    "might have got" is not a natural form. If it isn't an actul error of grammar, it sounds like one. it is not an improvement here. – David Siegel Jun 25 at 13:37

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