I have been doing some exercises on Past Simple vs Present Perfect as that's the topic that gives me the most troubles... and I can't comprehend why this sentence is correct?

"How did you get in here? Security!"

Someone has broken in somewhere and another person is calling security, so it's relevant to the present, because he's still inside, about to be captured. According to this logic it should be sentence in Present Perfect ("How have you gotten in here? Security!"), but the answer in the book is to use Past Simple.

Also google shows that "How have you gotten in here" has only 8 results while "How did you get in here" has 3.5 million so it's much more popular "version".

  • 1
    In British English "gotten" is considered non-standard. It can be used in American English, but I don't honestly think Americans would really use it in this context. The first sentence sounds the most natural.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:20
  • 3
    It's asking a question about a past event (getting inside, not being inside) so you use the past tense: the person is already inside, they've completed getting inside, that's over. If you were asking "How long have you been inside?" that is continuing from the past to the present and the present perfect is used. The notion that you use the perfect when it's relevant to the present can be misleading, because almost everything someone says is relevant to the present, or else they wouldn't be telling you it. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:47
  • Who are you and how did you get in here? youtu.be/XFhpctuUwb4?si=FSyKH5ONo0X_v7ED Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


Both 'got' and 'gotten' are the past participle of 'got'.

  • "Gotten" is more common in the United States and Canada.
  • "Got" is preferred by British English speakers and in most other dialects of English outside of the US and Canada.

Depending on the context, you may have to parse each word differently - as you have. I suppose the choice for a non-native English speaker comes down to whether your audience is US/Canada or not.


I am from Ireland and a native English speaker. '"Gotten" can be used a lot.

For example"where has he gotten to?" Means "where can he be" ? It is like "forgotten" e.g. ""I have forgotten all I learnt"

In your examples, I find both are acceptable but can have slightly different nuances.

'"How did you get in here?" seems a more direct question asked in surprise as if someone is shocked to see someone in a room.

"How have you gotten in here" ? may seem like more curious in nature as if the person may be a little bemused how someone was able to get a key or whatever. It seems less angry and direct.

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