it's the biter bit

merakli

Member
French/France
Hello!
Since the verb used in this expression is "to bite", (bite-bit-bitten),
why don't you say "It's the biter [who is] bitten"????
Maybe the ancient past participle of "bite" was also "bit"?

Thanks for your answer!

Sébastien
 
  • englishman

    Senior Member
    English England
    Hello!
    Since the verb used in this expression is "to bite", (bite-bit-bitten),
    why don't you say "It's the biter [who is] bitten"????
    Maybe the ancient past participle of "bite" was also "bit"?

    Thanks for your answer!

    Sébastien
    It is probably because "bit" is used very colloquially (or in some dialects) as the p.p. of "to bite". I don't know for sure, but I suspect the earlier forms of p.p were also "bitten", as the -en ending generally occurs in more ancient forms of the language (e.g. "to get" with p.p. of "gotten" in former times (and America, of course)).

    For example, you sometimes hear:

    "The bloody dog has bit me"
     

    LouisaB

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Hello!
    Since the verb used in this expression is "to bite", (bite-bit-bitten),
    why don't you say "It's the biter [who is] bitten"????
    Maybe the ancient past participle of "bite" was also "bit"?

    Thanks for your answer!

    Sébastien
    Hi, Sébastien,

    I think 'bit' used to be an acceptable past participle. Shakespeare certainly used it, as in 'Mine enemy's dog, though he had bit me..'

    It isn't now, but because the phrase is proverbial, the old wording remains.

    Louisa
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Bit is still acceptable as the past participle in AE, but is normally limited to set phrases.

    The verb has a past tense, bit, and two past participles, bitten and bit. Bitten is much more frequently used in Standard English, but bit continues to occur as past participle, especially in idioms such as these: The other cowboy had already bit the dust. We have bit the bullet. He’s been bit by mosquitoes. All these are Standard, although Edited English would more often use bitten in other than these idiomatic instances. Predicate adjectives such as snake-bit and dog-bit are Substandard and dialectal.
    —The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993
     
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