Spit or Spat? Difference Explained (Helpful Examples)

Some past tense forms are confusing, but it seems that none are more confusing than the verb “to spit.” This article will look at the past tense of “spit” and how we can use it correctly. You might be surprised to learn that there is a lot of overlap between forms.

Spit or Spat: Which Is Correct?

“Spit” and “spat” are both correct, and we can use both as the simple past tense or the past participle. Most of the choice comes down to which language you’re using (between American and British English), though you can choose based on personal preference as well.

Spit or Spat: Which Is Correct?
  • I spit in his face.
  • You spat in my face.
  • I have spit at him again.
  • You have spat at me again.

It might also help to remember these forms:

VerbSpit
PastSpit / Spat
Past ParticipleSpit / Spat
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When Is “Spit” Correct?

“Spit” is correct as both the simple past tense and the past participle. However, it comes down to the language we use, as American English is the one that values “spit” in both forms over anything else.

According to Google Ngram Viewer, “spit” is the preferred choice in American English for the simple past tense.

Spit or spat statistics

Likewise, according to Google Ngram Viewer, “spit” is the preferred choice in American English as the past participle.

have spit or have spat statistics

The simple past tense is easy to use, but the past participle needs more elaboration.

There are three perfect tenses we can create with the past participle, and they are as follows:

  • Past perfect: Had spit
  • Present perfect: Have spit
  • Future perfect: Will have spit

As you can see, “spit” never changes form, no matter the tense we use. However, “have” will change form based on what tense we write in.

Example Sentences Using “Spit”

We can use “spit” in all cases. Typically, American English will use it as the past tense form, and this section will highlight each of its main uses.

Simple Past Tense

  1. You spit in my face when I told you that!
  2. The bully spit in my face once again!

“Spit” works as the simple past tense. We use this to show that “spitting” took place in the past, and there is nothing more we can do to change it.

Past Perfect

  1. I had spit at you before, and I’ll do it again.
  2. They had spit at my designs, but they’re all finished now!

“Had spit” is the past perfect tense. It shows how “spitting” took place in the past, along with how it happened chronologically compared to other actions.

Present Perfect

  1. You have spit in my face every time I come up with a good idea.
  2. They have spit at me once before.

“Have spit” is the present perfect tense. We use it to show that “spitting” started in the past and continues in the present (or finishes).

Future Perfect

  1. I will have spit in the face of all my enemies by the end of this battle.
  2. You will have spit your final when I get my hands on you.

“Will have” works as the future perfect tense. We can use it to show that “spitting” will take place at some point in the future, and there is some kind of guarantee to make sure that it happens.

When Is “Spat” Correct?

“Spat” is correct in all the same ways as “spit.” However, we typically use it more when writing in British English formats.

“Spat” is both the simple past tense and the past participle of “to spit.” We use it in British English when we want to show that a “spitting” action has already taken place or will take place in the future.

According to Google Ngram Viewer, “spat” is the preferred choice in British English for the simple past tense.

Spit or spat statistics British English

Also, according to Google Ngram Viewer, “have spat” is the preferred choice in British English, using “spat” as the past participle.

Have spit or have spat statistics British English

As you can tell, though, “spit” is still common in both forms in British English. That shows just how interchangeable the two forms are.

Just like “spit” in the past participle in the previous section, we include an auxiliary verb like “have” with it when we want to create the perfect tense. There are still three present tenses we can use, and they all follow the same rules as before:

  • Past perfect: Had spat
  • Present perfect: Have spat
  • Future perfect: Will have spat

Example sentences using “Spat”

“Spat” is correct as every form. It’s more common in British English, and we’ll split this section into the four forms that we can use.

Simple Past Tense

  1. I spat on you.
  2. You spat in my face when I said that!

The simple past tense uses “spat” without auxiliary verbs. It simply means that someone “spat” in the past, and there’s nothing more we can do to change that at present.

Past Perfect

  1. I had spat in his face before he had a chance to react.
  2. You had spat at me before this, but I put a stop to it.

“Had spat” works to talk about the order of how things took place in the past. While the event of “spitting” has already happened, we use the past perfect for showing how something went down.

Present Perfect

  1. She has spat on me again!
  2. You have spat at me, but luckily you missed.

“Have spat” works when someone started to “spit” in the past, but continues to do so or finishes the action in the present.

Future Perfect

  1. I will have spat on you by the end of the night!
  2. You will have spat your last by the time I get my hands on you.

“Will have spat” works to show that a future event is likely to happen based on our present actions. While it’s not yet taken place, there is some kind of guarantee that will make it almost inevitable.

“Have Spit” Vs. “Have Spat”

We have established that there’s a clear difference between British and American English in this article. It’s interesting because it means that there are technically no incorrect ways to use “spit” or “spat.”

Both “have spit” and “have spat” are correct. We typically use “have spit” as the present perfect tense in American English, while “have spat” is the present perfect tense in British English.

We’ve shown you a few examples throughout this article, but we’ll show you a few more of each just to reiterate the interchangeability.

  • Correct: I have spat on you once before, and I’ll do it again.
  • Correct: You have spit in my face for the last time!

Final Thoughts

We can use both “spit” and “spat” interchangeably. They both work as the simple past tense, and they both work as the past participle. However, American English mostly uses “spit” as both forms, while British English uses “spat” as both forms.

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