Which of below is American and which is British English when you want someone to explain themselves?

  1. What do you have to say for yourself?

  2. What have you got to say for yourself?

  • 1
    Both are recognizable as AE, although if my parents, say, asked me as a boy the second one, it would be hard not to laugh. Because the use of got in such a context seems jarringly out of place (i.e., got is colloquial, whereas a demand for an explanation from a superior calls for more formal language).
    – user6951
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:13
  • Then I take the second one is old-fashioned? Actually "got" is the main reason I'm asking this question.
    – learner
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:17
  • 3
    I think the more iconic example of this sentence is the first one; this is what you will see most often in (older) American television, movies, etc. It's not a very common idiom anymore, and it's typically said by an annoyed parent to their children (hence the more formal language).
    – Crazy Eyes
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:40
  • 1
    @learner I think you meant that CrazyEyes' comments were valuable in a practical way - and grammatically that is what your sentence should mean. Be aware, though, that "[X] is practically [y]" is a construction that is often used when we mean "[X] is almost [y]." As in: "Most of my hair has fallen out. I am practically bald." If I didn't know you were an English learner, or hadn't read Crazy's comment, I might read your comment as (sarcastically) saying that you think his comments were worthless.
    – Adam
    Jan 13, 2015 at 5:37
  • 1
    @Adam Thank you very much for your observation and correction. I wish there were more native speakers like you who wouldn't ignore mistakes like these.
    – learner
    Jan 14, 2015 at 20:46

2 Answers 2


Both are acceptable American English. Most commonly on TV or in media, American characters will say "What do you have to say for yourself?" However, the other version is also correct.


Actually the first one may be considered old fashioned by some but it is the correct version.

In the second version the word "got" is not needed. It is superfluous.

I was brought up to never say "I've got" (I have got). If you HAVE it, then you GOT it. It is very bad grammar.

Unfortunately, it is now being used on the BBC. For example, "we've got our correspondent (............) on the line now". No! It should be "we have (or now have) our correspondent.....

"What have we got later on this evening?" No! It should be "What do we have later on this evening?"

One of the worst for me is the title of a programme called "Have we got news for you." No! It should be "Have we news for you" or "Do we have news for you".

My point is that the use of the word "got" with "have" is bad English.

  • Note that this appears to have been adopted from US use. It is less objectionable in US speech, where got is not the past participle of get. In fact, lexical HAVE is disappearing from US speech; I suspect this reflects a long-term 'grammaticalization' of the word. That's what happened with the modals, all of which were once full lexical verbs. Jan 13, 2015 at 16:09
  • 1
    @Morag, I'm just curious, how prevalent must it become in order for you to change your mind and declare that using "got" in this scenario is good English? Feb 11, 2015 at 16:08

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