have got - historical meaning

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New Member
Hi! I wonder if anyone knows the historical reason why people use "got" as in

"I've got a white car"

when, say, expressing possession in British English, instead of just saying

"I have a white car", as the Americans say, if I'm correct.


  • English - England
    I'm no expert on this sort of thing but I imagined that it sprang from the fact that I have got meant I have acquired, and clearly something that you have acquired is something you possess. I imagine also that the fact that AE has kept the gotten form of past participle means that in AE the form is more unweildy that the BE 'I have got', and this may explain the fact that AE doesn't use the expression which is so handy in BE.

    I suppose also that I have or I've may be the opening of the present perfect of other verbs (I've seen, I've walked etc.), and by saying I've got you tell the listener not to expect another past participle, and got is short and quickly said.

    That's all very speculative.
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    Senior Member
    I am non-native but as far as I know the two sentence have different meaning.
    "I've got a white car" is present perfect tense.
    I didn't have a car (for example three weeks ago) but now I have it because I bought it (for example 2 days ago).
    "I have a white car" is simple present tense, which means I had a white car (for example three months ago) and I have it now and I'll presumably have it (for example three months future.)
    Having a white car is my general fact.

    I was taught that in my English class. Am I correct?
    And if I am correct, is it AE or BE or both?

    edit; I didn't notice what you ask.
    You want to know the difference of
    "I've got a white car" and "I've had a white car", don't you?
    Then, I don't know the answer.
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    Senior Member
    English UK
    Wishfull, "I've got" is present perfect in form but nearly always present in meaning.

    I can say, for example, "I've got short fat hairy legs". I didn't acquire them - I just have them. (Sadly.)

    Quidditch, I expect TT is right about "I have got"="I have" deriving originally from "I have got"="I have acquired". The habit goes back a long way, though:) Here's the OED on the subject:
    24. The perfect tense is used in familiar language in senses equivalent to those of the present tense of have or possess. [...] So (colloq. or vulgar) in recent use to have got to = ‘to have to’, to be obliged to [...]; also (orig. U.S.) in the sense of ‘must’, ‘to be certainly’.
    [1596 SHAKES. Merch. V. II. ii. 99 What a beard hast thou got; thou hast got more haire on thy chin, then Dobbin my philhorse has on his taile.] 1607 -- Timon I. ii. 26 Fie, th' art a churle, ye haue got a humour there Does not become a man.


    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This topic is covered in considerable detail, with references, in other threads.

    There are many previous threads on these topics.
    If you use the WordReference dictionary you should find them. For example, I looked up have got and found this list:
    Have you (got) ...? Do you have ...?
    I have got a lot of things to ....
    I have got a lot of trouble....
    I have (got) to ...
    I have got some other plans !
    I have (got) ...
    I have or I have got a boyfriend
    I have got an interview for a job on the....
    Have you got any hopes for a job ?
    have got fields set up
    Have you got a synonym for ass- kisser ?
    If someone takes advantage of you because you have got lots of money .. How would you
    I have (got) - I had got
    I have (got) ...
    I have <got> ... ... have you <got>? ... do you have?
    don´t have or haven´t got
    I have (got) ...
    Eliza would never have got the job...
    It must have got very cold
    I have (got) a new car.
    I have (got) ...
    I have (got) ...
    I would have loved to have got pregnant ...
    What job do you have for a living? What is job you got . . . .
    I got it/ I have got it
    I have (got) - gotten
    what time did you get up this morning vs what time have you got up this..?
    I have (got) - I had got - past form of have got
    I have (got) ... Have you (got) ...?

    If this leads you to an interest in gotten ...
    Ill-gotten, gotten up
    Got & gotten
    I've got/ gotten ...
    Got & gotten
    Got & gotten
    I have (got) - gotten
    hadn't gotten a break
    What has gotten into ....
    has gotten one over on an FBI Agent
    I have gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction from my work
    If my brother hadn’t taken his gloves off he wouldn’t have gotten frost-bitten.
    have got to, have gotten, got to

    Please have a look at some of these.
    If they do not help, please post again with more specific questions.

    The topic is also listed in the sticky at the top of this forum:
    5. Threads on some frequently asked questions about English are listed here.
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