I need to ask what does "got" in this sentence mean?

All I got was/were macarons

Does it mean I "received" macarons or I have got (as in possession) macarons? And why did we used "was/were", why not "is/are?"

Secondly likewise sentence is "All I got was this lousy t-shirt" why we used "was" why not "All I got is this lousy t-shirt"?

Thirdly, do you not think "All I had were bruise and cut" would be correct instead of "All I had was a bruise and a cut" because "a bruise and a cut" are collectively plural since we used "and" not "or" as in "a bruise and a cut"


1 Answer 1


In standard English, got means possessing only with have:

All I've got is the clothes I stand up in.

In colloquial speech, the /v/ sometimes gets elided, and you hear I got a car outside, with that meaning.

But that sense is inconsistent with the past tense was. In All I got was X, the got has to be the simple past of get, meaning received.

(I don't know what macarons means: a macaroon is a kind of cake or biscuit)

With a present is, it is more likely to have the possessing sense, because that is inconsistent with a past reading of got.

So, in summary:

All I got was X: almost certainly, "all I received"

All I got is X: probably "all I have", but this is not standard English, which would require All I've got.

Similarly, All I got was a lousy t-shirt means received. (You understand the joke? Somebody went somewhere, and all they brought back for me was this t-shirt). All I got is a lousy t-shirt is non-standard for "all I've got" or "all I have".

As for was vs were: both are possible in your first and last examples, depending on whether you are thinking of it as one thing or several.

  • 2
    Colin - see this I'd never heard of macarons either until recently. Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 13:29
  • @KateBunting Same, I've seen the word but assumed it was a typo/misspelling. Now I know better! ...It's a weird feeling being humbled by a small dessert cookie.
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 18:43
  • 1
    @BruceWayne To make it even more confusing, in English the French pastries are often called macaroons as well -- Google image search "macaroon," and you'll see a pretty even split between French things and coconut things. In some contexts calling the French pastry a "macaron" in English can give a snobby vibe
    – semblable
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 21:47

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