Have got, for possess or have, says Fowler, is good colloquial but not good literary English. Others have been more lenient. Dr. Johnson said:
"He has got a good estate" does not always mean that he has acquired, but barely that he possesses it. So we say "the lady has got black eyes", merely meaning that she has them.
And Dr. Ballard has written:
What is wrong with the word? Its pedigree is beyond reproach. If the reader will consult the Oxford English Dictionary he will find that Shakespeare uses the word. So does Swift; Ruskin uses it frequently, and Augustine Birrell in OBITER DICTA asks "What has the general public got to do with literature?" Johnson in his Dictionary gives possession as a legitimate meaning of the verb to get, and quotes George Herbert. Indeed he uses it himself in a letter to Boswell. The only inference we can draw is that it is not a real error but a counterfeit invented by schoolmasters.
When such high authorities differ, what is the plain man to think? If it is true, as I hold it to be, that superfluous words are an evil, we ought to condemn "the lady has got black eyes", but not "the lady has got a black eye". Still, writing for those whose prose inclines more often to primness than to colloquialisms, and who are not likely to overdo the use of got, I advise them not to be afraid of it. This at least is certain: that it is better to say "I have got the information you wanted" than "I have obtained the information which you desired".
|« Guide »||« ABC of Plain Words »||« Use Of English »||« Library »||« Home »|