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Which is the past participle of spit: spat or spit? And how many examples can we come up with where a verb is changed in the simple past but unchanged(spelt like in the present) in the past participle?

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closed as general reference by KitFox, Jasper, aedia λ, Daniel, simchona Sep 9 '11 at 18:28

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It just depends on your particular dialect. Everyone agrees that past tense is the same as the present for words like cut, hit, put. In some dialects this also applies to spit, shit and probably others I can't call to mind offhand. –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 21:18
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...just thought of quit, where I think quitted is extremely rare. The opposite to most others. –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 21:22
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Wikipedia already has a pretty complete list of English irregular verbs. –  krubo Sep 9 '11 at 0:48
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3 Answers 3

There is:

Come -> came -> come
Outrun -> outran -> outrun
Overcome -> Overcame -> Overcome
Rerun -> reran -> rerun
Run -> Ran -> Run

It seems to work only for the two verbs "come" and "run", and their subsequent compound verbs. Perhaps someone else could come up with a unique example.

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My dictionary says:

past and past part. spit or spat

which I take to mean that either is acceptable. However, if I were writing about some spit which had already been spat, I'd use "spat" as the past participle to describe the spit:

spat spit

Using "spit" as the past participle in this case gives:

spit spit

which doesn't sound right.

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I suppose you'd have shat shit then? It's just your dialect - others would have shit shit, or even shitted shit. –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 23:33
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In standard English, you generally have:

  • come, plus its compounds (including become)
  • run, plus its compounds
  • bid (bid / bade / bid), but generally not its compounds (e.g. "forbid" gives "forbidden")

Depending on your dialect, you could have variations on this, e.g.:

  • many speakers nowadays conjugate "run" as run / ran / ran, so e.g. would say "it hasn't ran"
  • some speakers conjugate compounds of "bid" in the same way as "bid", so e.g. "they've forbid him from coming"; on the other hand, many speakers also use "-bid" as the preterite, e.g. "they forbid it" meaning "they forbade it"; I'm not sure what percentage end up with "-bid / -bade / -bid"
  • as mentioned above, one or two other verbs, in particular inherently slang verbs such as "shit", are candidates for variation so it seems that some speakers may end up with this A / B / A pattern for other verbs.
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