Bit vs. bitten

Bit is the past tense of the verb bite. Bitten is usually the past participle. For example, perhaps you bit your tongue this morning. If this is not the first time you’ve had a bitten tongue, then you have bitten your tongue before.

Still, even though bitten is conventional in such uses, bit is sometimes used as the past participle—for example:

Yet another NSW Government infrastructure project has bit the dust. [Sydney Morning Herald]

A Frankton woman went through a harrowing car wreck … and came out with only a little pain and a bit lip. [Herald Bulletin]

But such instances are rare. In edited writing, bit is usually the past tense, as in these sentences:


After the game, Burrows seemed unsure as to whether or not he bit Bergeron. [Wall Street Journal]

When lecturers wrongly spelt “Lucien” in their notes, she bit her tongue. [Telegraph]

And bitten is usually the the past participle, as in these examples:

Having decided to shut up shop in the US, the company could at the same time have bitten the bullet. []

There’s been bitten fingers and biting commentary. [Toronto Star]


Check Your Text


  1. There’ve (not there’s) been bitten fingers. Geez.

    • They’ve? How would that even make sense? Are you thinking it should be…”They’ve been biting fingers…”?
      It should be “There’s” just the way they have it. Geez.

    • Gail Wimmer Hughes says:

      Rose is correct. ”There’s” is a contraction for ‘there is’ or ‘there has’, which are singular. You wouldn’t say there has been bitten fingers. There’ve is a contraction for ‘there have’, which is plural. Therefore, “There’ve been bitten fingers” is correct. Not the best example they could have used, but still…

  2. shining student says:

    correct one is there are ………….

  3. Would it be she got bit or she got bitten

    • Eric Murray says:

      Lose the “got.” That is a poor choice. We hear, “you got this” so often that we’ve begun to use “got” in many situations in which another word would have been so much more appropriate. Instead, how about, “she was bitten,” or “she received a bite from?” In other words, you don’t “get” a bite. You receive a bite.

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