When Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not asks “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?” the effect is to illustrate his folksy, semiliterate way of speaking. The traditional way to phrase this question would be “Were you ever stung by a dead bee?”

The simple past form of “bite” is “bit,” as in “Their dog bit the paper carrier.” But the past participle is “bitten,” as in “The paper carrier was bitten by their dog.”

In common expressions about becoming enthusiastic about something, like “bit by the genealogy bug” the verb should technically be “bitten,” but “bit” is so common that it’s not likely to be noticed. In other contexts where you are not sure which one works best, try “bitten.” If it sounds OK, go with it.

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