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Could someone explain me the following sentences:

  1. I have gotten an idea
  2. I got an idea
  3. I have an idea
  4. I have got an idea

I want to know how/when native American speakers use the above sentences

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  • The first one sounds awkward/unnatural. The next three are fine. Commented May 17 at 22:42

3 Answers 3

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I have gotten an idea.
I got an idea.
I have an idea.
I have got an idea.

Bear in mind that in English, there are two ways to say have in the present simple tense. There is have and have got. So:

  • I've got an idea and I have an idea. mean the same thing.

Next, bear in mind that got is the past tense of get, and that "get an idea" is similar to "have an idea". So:

  • I got an idea for a new book. means the same thing as: I had an idea for a new book. Those mean an idea for a new book came into (past tense) my head/mind.

Also, bear in mind that in fast speech or substandard speech in AmE, people do say: I got for either have or have got. For example:
"Hey, I got an idea." means in this case, "I have or have got (I've got) an idea". It is not the past tense of get here. But it would be here: I got a car yesterday. [bought or came into possession of a car].

A good example of this truncation of have got is an advertisement that asks: Got milk? which actually means: [Have you] got milk? for: Do you have any milk? OR: You got a car? for Have you got a car? or Do you have a car? [or gotta, in colloquial speech and seen in sub-titles or movie or book dialogues]

Finally, bear in mind that the present perfect of "have" or "have got" in AmE is "have gotten". (The British do not use this form with a few exceptions. Basically, they use have got as the present perfect for have/have got, which is why this can be very tricky if you don't know this. "Have you or haven't you got any ideas about this? could be present or present perfect depending on context. )

So: I've gotten an idea [about that recently]. is fine. It means: An idea has come into my mind at some undefined point in the past. as distinct from: "I got an idea about that yesterday but have now forgotten it".

Many questions here on ELL require contextualization which OPs frequently do not provide. This is one example of having to contextualize for purposes of explanation.

So, to answer your question: Is have got and got the same in AmE?

No, not really. Not in standard English.

I got your letter yesterday. [past of get]
I got your letter right here. [truncated colloquial for: I've got or I have your letter right here.]
I've got your letters. [present tense of have/have got: to be in possession of]

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  • Thank you so much for the answer @Lambie, I've always wondered why people use "got" in the present tense instead of "have" or "have got", your answer helped me a lot. Commented May 17 at 18:58
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    The parenthetical about "gotta" may be misleading: it's usually used to spell a contraction of "got to", not "got a". So, "Have you gotta drive" = "Do you have to drive" = "Must you drive"; not "Do you have a drive" = "Do you possess a drive".
    – IMSoP
    Commented May 18 at 14:01
  • @IMSoP The example I gave was: I have a car and I've got a car, which colloquially becomes: I gotta car. Which in fact, has two meanings, depending on context. I was not dealing with the idiom: to have to do something, have got to do something/ Both got to drive and got a car can become gotta. Anything else?
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18 at 14:58
  • @Lambie I've never seen "gotta" used to write that, and if I saw it I'd probably think it was a mistake, since I can't see how it would be pronounced any differently from "got a". But apparently the Black Eyed Peas used it that way so I guess Today I Learned.
    – IMSoP
    Commented May 18 at 15:20
  • @IMSoP They are both pronounced gotta: I gotta go now. I gotta car now. I have gotta leave now. OR I gotta leave now. They are all gotta.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18 at 15:27
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Number 1 wouldn’t be used very often. The only situations I can think of are things like Sometimes I have gotten an idea while in the shower. Number 2 would mean “an idea occurred to me.” Number 3 could mean “an idea has just now occurred to me” or “I am in possession of an idea (of unspecified age or source).” Number 4 is unlikely unless the have is emphasized, in which case the sentence might be uttered to refute an assertion or assumption that I possess no ideas. Otherwise, the much more common variant of number 4 is “I’ve got an idea”; yes, here the contracting from I have to I’ve is semantically significant.

And all of this is for American English. With other speech communities, as they say, your mileage may vary.

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  • Hi @Paul Tanenbaum, once again thank you for your answer Commented May 17 at 19:06
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"I got an idea" is sometimes used to mean the exact same as what other people would phrase as "I have an idea" or "I've got an idea".

There seem to be regional differences - unless I'm mistaken, "I've got an idea" would be more typical for the British, while both "I have an idea" and "I got an idea" are something I hear from American media. But while "I have an idea" is correct proper English, "I got an idea" is distinctly informal.

Compare:
I've Got a Feeling - the Beatles
I Have a Dream - Martin Luther King Jr.
I Got Life - Hair

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  • Thank you @Divizna !! Commented May 18 at 6:44
  • I would disagree with your characterisation of "I got an idea" as distinctly informal. It's not at all informal when it's the past tense of "get". In some dialects, it could be informal, when it's a replacement for "I have"; for example in "I got rhythm", which many speakers would consider ungrammatical. Commented May 18 at 9:08
  • @DawoodibnKareem That's what I meant. It's informal in this context. "At first I didn't know what to do but then I got an idea" is stylistically universal (past tense of get). "What are we gonna do?" - "Don't worry, I got an idea" is informal.
    – Divizna
    Commented May 18 at 11:18
  • No, this thing about British English for have got and have for AmE is mistaken. Also, "I got an idea" is, as I said, past tense. If you use "I got an idea" as substitute for the present tense, it is non-standard. "I got rhythm" is AAVE, which is fine but not the same as a white person using "I got an idea" as a substitute for I've got/have an idea.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 18 at 12:46

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