Context : I found that my friend have been sad recently. I decided to buy a gift for her to surprise and make her happy again. Now, I meet her in our class. I give it to her and say:

Me: How are you? Hey, I got something for you. I think that this will help you feel better. ( then, I give it to her)

My friend: Thank you so much.

(1) I got something for you= I now have (in possession) something (a gift) for you, and I will give it to you. => "got" here is slang of "have" and "have got" and "in possession"

(2) I got something for you= I got ( past tense of "get") something in the past, now I give it to you. =>" got" here is the past form of "get".

In this context, when my friend hears this sentence "I got something for you", my friend doesn't know If I am using the meaning as (1) or (2). Right?

  • It's ambiguous. But equally if you said "I bought you a present" they wouldn't know if you had the present with you. If you say "I got something for you. I'll give you it tonight." (or "I bought you a present. I'll give you it tonight.") then they know you don't have it. If you say "Wait, I got something for you!" (or "Wait, I bought you a present...") it implies you're going to give them it right then.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 20 at 14:06
  • @StuartF, I give my friend the gift right After I say that sentence ""I got something for you". So, does the listener know the meaning of "got" (1) or (2)?
    – LE123
    Commented May 20 at 14:21
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    Just want to point out that saying "I got something" with the meaning "I have something here" is bad English. It might be heard from native speakers, but it sounds completely uneducated.
    – user8356
    Commented May 21 at 15:04
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    If I heard “I(’ve) got something for you”, I would automatically assume got referred to possession here. It can refer to the process of obtaining as well, but it would be vastly more common in that case to say, “I got you something” (which cannot refer to possession). So I would say your example is almost certain to be understood as (1), unless context dictates otherwise. Commented May 21 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


In American English, I got is either simple past tense:

I got some cough medicine for you when I was at the pharmacy.

or non-standard present tense meaning "I have":

I got something for you. Guess which hand it's in.

Standard would be:

I've got something for you. Guess which hand it's in.

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    If you don't add a phrase like "when I was at the pharmacy" and are known to speak non-standard English, your statement would be ambiguous. It would not be clear whether you were saying "I have something" or "I obtained something".
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 14:39
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    Yes, in some dialects of English "got" is a synonym for "have". Dialects are not always regional, though they may have originally been confined to a region. The situation is complicated by diaspora.
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 15:05
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    @FumbleFingers I've got something for you is something you'd hear anywhere in the US. Although it's informal, it is, as I said, standard AmE, not non-standard, and not regional. I got your moonshine with me in the truck, now pay up (where it has a present tense sense) is non-standard.
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 17:32
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    None of that makes much sense to me. I can't tell if you're disagreeing with me, or giving additional information. I'm sure I've got something for you is only "informal" in AmE insofar as it includes a contraction (in my experience, Americans rarely use I have something for you, which is the relatively formal BrE version).. But my point was simply that (with or without got, contracted or not) AAVE doesn't use have in that way (much, if at all). Commented May 20 at 18:33
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    " Here's why: Simplicity: AAVE often favors simpler verb conjugations. "Got" in this context functions as the past participle of "get" and eliminates the need for the auxiliary verb "have." Origin: AAVE has roots in African American communities in the Southern US, where this construction is more commonplace. Informality: AAVE is a generally informal dialect, and "I got something for you" aligns with that tone. While "I have got something for you" is grammatically correct, it's less common in AAVE due to the reasons mentioned above.* Commented May 20 at 19:09

Yes I've got something for you. in AmE = I have something for you. and right, it is not non-standard and not regional. It's omnipresent in AmE and BrE, too.

AND: And "I got something for you." can be three things:

  • non-standard for have/have got, meaning: in someone's possession

_ the past tense of get where get means to buy or obtain or receive.

I got something for you can have three different meanings:
I bought something for you. [like a thing at a shop]
I received something for you. [like a letter or package in the mail]
I obtained something for you. [like a rare book from a book dealer]

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    I have upvoted your answer as well. Wasn't my downvote.
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 22:00
  • @TimR It's really too much. Getting fed up with these misplaced dv's. :) Look at this one, too: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/352337/… Is there anything intrinsically wrong with it?
    – Lambie
    Commented May 20 at 22:01
  • It's a correct explanation of what it means to "abandon a habit". Maybe it was downvoted by someone who though that what was being described by the OP wasn't really a "habit".
    – TimR
    Commented May 20 at 23:03
  • @Lambie, your answer have the same content as my question that "got" is non-standard for have/have got, meaning: in someone's possession and "got" is also the past tense of get where get means to buy or obtain or receive. But the thing I want to ask is if the listener know which meaning of "got" the speaker is using.
    – LE123
    Commented May 21 at 0:56
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    @LEHANH To repeat, "got" is not slang. It is not confined to a particular group or age-group; nor is it a coinage; nor is it subject to growing stale and dated as slang is. It is a cross-dialect, cross-generation verb used mainly in informal contexts, though that is no doubt the result of the educational system. Whoever has taught you that this is slang doesn't understand what slang is. Get that into your noggin.
    – TimR
    Commented May 21 at 8:48

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