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Have got, Have or got Options
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2009 7:37:26 PM

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The phrase "You've got mail" has always bugged me. To me, "I have mail" means there is mail waiting for me. "I got mail" means that there is something new I just received.

The "have got" construction, regardless of the subject, seems wrong. Any help from a resident grammarian.

TCW
Luftmarque
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2009 7:54:11 PM

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I suspect the you've got mail! construction was a marketing idea to make the phrase more noticeable than you have mail. You've got I associate more with uses such as you've got rabies!
Spanish Teacher
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2009 8:31:57 PM
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If I am not mistaken, the "You've got" in "You've got mail!" is correct. "You've" is a contraction of "You HAVE". I believe the confusion arises from the usage of "got" as a past participle ("gotten" is another accepted past participle as well). Therefore, what is occurring here is a contracted usage of the Present Perfect tense.

You can check the usage of "get" here.
teeg
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 3:55:39 AM
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"have got" has two uses. As Spanish Teacher said, it can be the present perfect tense (which is used for when an action in the past affects the present), but it can also simply be an informal (but not incorrect) version of "have".

In the case of it being the present perfect tense, it emphasises the fact that the action of 'getting' (obtaining/receiving) has taken place, which has brought us to the present situation. For example:
"He has got/gotten a new car, which is parked on his driveway"
(In BrE 'gotten' is obsolete (I'm British, btw), but I believe it can be used for the 'obtain' meaning of 'get' in AmE...)

"You've got mail" thus can be interpreted two ways:
"You have got(possess) mail (waiting for you to read)" (informal)
"You have(possess) mail (waiting for you to read)" (formal)
or
"You have got(have received) mail(, which is waiting for you to read)"
(...however, I believe 'gotten' is not used for the 'receive' meaning of 'get'..?)

"I got mail" uses the simple past tense, and therefore would report that you received mail in the past. For example, "Today I finally got some mail! I haven't had any for days!" But in the case of being informed/finding that the present situation has changed due to an event in the past, one must use the present perfect tense.
witchcraft
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 5:14:55 AM
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Location: Tasmania Australia
Don't be pedantic! just get used to the grammatical niceties.That's the best way you will presumably be able to linguistically cognize the subtle diversity.
Vikran
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 5:40:26 AM
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Location: Italy
I don't think anyone's being pedantic. teeg just gave a perfectly good answer to williamsttd's question. It's interesting to see, though, that william perceives "I got mail" (past simple) as something new, something connecting to the present,i.e. a situation where the correct tense to use would be the present perfect (I've got mail). Is this "past simplification" just a result of the phonetic similarity to the present perfect version? (the "'ve" is made irrelevant).
In that case, how do you explain "So, did you have lunch yet?" etc. I agree that these are niceties, but they do make
English grammar harder to teach :)
Spanish Teacher
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 10:56:00 AM
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Thank you, Teeg, for your thorough explanation. I appreciate it. What's more, it is quite correct. The subtleties of English are what make this language difficult to both teach and learn. I think it is interesting how a benign phrase such as "You've got mail!" can be the catalyst for fellow grammariansThink

I recognize my following comment is not part of this thread, but I feel somehow connected to the idea of how English is wrought with many inconsistencies or "idiosyncrasies" that define it. Let's think about how such a language (English)is so convoluted that it has given birth to the Spelling Bee. To my knowledge (and I could be wrong here), no other language requires this to exist. As my user name suggests, I am a Spanish teacher. Spanish is a phonetic language, as are a number of other languages. And yet, one would not find a need to "challenge" others with spelling of Spanish because of its inherently simplistic phonetic quality.
Todd C. Williams
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 11:07:46 AM

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Don't get me started on spelling. For instance, why isn't phonetic spelled with and "f." I understand the origin of the word, but isn't it self-contradictory? Shouldn't it be funetik spelling? :-) (Sorry, but you took the thread there.)
cher
Posted: Saturday, June 6, 2009 11:47:15 AM
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Location: Russian Federation
teeg wrote:

"I got mail" uses the simple past tense, and therefore would report that you received mail in the past. For example, "Today I finally got some mail! I haven't had any for days!" But in the case of being informed/finding that the present situation has changed due to an event in the past, one must use the present perfect tense.

Isn't using the past simple in this situation typical for American Enlish? I've always thought that the Present Perfect is less popular in the States. Anxious
kaliedel
Posted: Monday, June 8, 2009 2:50:17 AM
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"You've got mail" is, of course, a bit of marketing strategy - for some reason, "You have mail!" doesn't sound as snazzy, even if it is grammatically correct.
early_apex
Posted: Monday, June 8, 2009 9:43:20 AM
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Location: Spindletop, Texas, United States
williamstdd wrote:
The phrase "You've got mail" has always bugged me. To me, "I have mail" means there is mail waiting for me. "I got mail" means that there is something new I just received.

The "have got" construction, regardless of the subject, seems wrong. Any help from a resident grammarian.

TCW


Without question, "got" is the one word in that sentence most easily dispensed with. A case could be made that "got" is never needed.
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