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Past tense of "eat" - ate or eat?

(48 Posts)
BertieBottsJustGotMarried Thu 27-Feb-14 18:09:31

I am curious and this is not an easily googlable one due to the spelling.

I was just talking to my friend, English is not her first language but she is fluent, and she asked me about something I said: "We just ate pasta all the time"

She said that she had also heard the past tense of eat as eat - pronounced et. She had thought this was a UK/US thing but I don't think it is - is it? We even checked in a pronunciation dictionary, neither was marked as UK/US and both were in there.

In context > "I gave him a sandwich but he only eat half of it". "We eat them all. There were none left."

That doesn't look right now I've written it, but I'm sure that eat, pronounced et, is a real word, otherwise how would I know it was spelt like that? confused Is it dialect or something else?

ThreeBeeOneGee Thu 27-Feb-14 18:16:56

I eat pasta once a week.
I ate pasta yesterday.
I have eaten too much pasta.

Some people pronounce the 'ate' in the second sentence as et. The correct spelling is still 'ate'.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Thu 27-Feb-14 18:18:33

Ate. Et is dialect but still means ate/

AntoinetteCosway Thu 27-Feb-14 18:20:30

Et is just an accented way of pronouncing ate. My DH's family say et-they're from Manchester.

falaaalaaa Thu 27-Feb-14 18:21:22


NotInGuatemalaNowDrRopata Thu 27-Feb-14 18:36:49

I am from New Zealand and had never heard "et" before coming here.

FatimaLovesBread Thu 27-Feb-14 19:10:46

Et is just a pronunciation of ate

forbreakfast Thu 27-Feb-14 19:12:54


SpookedMackerel Thu 27-Feb-14 19:20:07

I pronounce ate as et too, as do most people I know.

Eat is always pronounced eat.

AgadorSpartacus Thu 27-Feb-14 19:26:22

Et is lazy/accent/dialect call it what you will but the correct word is ate

teenagetantrums Thu 27-Feb-14 19:27:10


SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 27-Feb-14 22:09:45

I think that the UK/US thing is that there are no American accents in which ate is pronounced as et.

BertieBottsJustGotMarried Fri 28-Feb-14 13:56:30

OK, thanks - so "eat" pronounced et is totally wrong then grin

learnasyougo Fri 28-Feb-14 13:58:49

yes. maybe she's become confused with read (where the past tense is spelled the same but pronounced red)?

wanderings Fri 28-Feb-14 14:05:15

I remember a poem in a Ladybird book "A was an apple pie", which had picture of an apple pie and lots of mice in coats around it. The poem began:
A was an apple pie,
B bit it,
C cut it,
D dealt it,


E eat it! (I kid you not!)

It went on (for those who are interested):
F fought for it,
G got it,
H had it,
I inspected it,
J joined for it,
K kept it,
L longed for it,
M mourned for it,
N nodded at it,
O opened it,
P peeped in it,
Q quartered it,
R ran for it
S stole it,
T took it,
U upset it,
V viewed it,
W wanted it.
XYZ all wished for a piece in hand.

IHaveSeenMyHat Fri 28-Feb-14 14:13:08

"Et" is just a mispronunciation of "ate". I can see why it confuses non-native speakers!

BertieBottsJustGotMarried Fri 28-Feb-14 14:20:10

See wanderings! Maybe I read the same book. I'm sure I've seen it written down.

badtime Sat 01-Mar-14 08:41:48

'Et' is not a mispronunciation of 'ate'. It is actually the traditional and the posh pronunciation. Stephen Fry says 'et' (I know because I once went 'SEE!' while watching QI after an argument about this). The OED has 'et' as the first pronunciation.

I think it may be one of those things like 'what?', where upper class and working class people happily say it, but the middle classes have a fit of the vapours at the thought.

'Ate' may be what is known as a 'spelling pronunciation', where a traditional pronunciation has been amended by people trying to pronounce words as they are spelled, which may happen through ignorance or through stylistic preference (cf. waistcoat, not weskit, forehead, not forrid).

AndIFeedEmGunpowder Sat 01-Mar-14 10:04:46

YY badtime is right. correct pronuciation of ate is 'et' rather than 'eight'.

AndIFeedEmGunpowder Sat 01-Mar-14 10:06:26

<slinks away, never to post in Pedants' corner again>

Toomuch2young Sat 01-Mar-14 10:07:50

Round here they say have et'en it.

As in have et'en my dinner. Or have you et'en tonight?

Just dialect.

MrsCosmopilite Sat 01-Mar-14 10:13:17

My three-year-old says 'eated' but I don't think she's the authority on it!

Ate is the past tense of eat. Can be pronounced with a clear 'a' at the beginning or as 'et'.

forbreakfast Sat 01-Mar-14 14:44:12

I think 'et' just sounds wrong unless you're 'proper' upper class (and how few of us are after all)

'Ate' would seem usual for the majority of us.

chattychattyboomba Sat 01-Mar-14 14:53:26

From Aus and never heard 'et' before moving here 8 years ago. I have noticed it's more of a slang/dialect and certain demographics favour it.

Ate is the correct past tense.
"I ate spaghetti for dinner tonight"
"Have you eaten yet?"
"I'm not sure what to eat"

'Et', although technically recognised as acceptable in place of 'ate' due to it's common use in slang is, in my opinion, not the correct way to say it. Not sure why it's so hard to use 'ate'...same number of syllables! And everyone knows what you're talking about.

AnnoyingOrange Sat 01-Mar-14 14:58:18

I say both, depending on where the emphasis is in the sentence.

So for example I would say to a child with a sore tummy, "was it something you ate? (Like eight).

But if I said "he ate (et) three pancakes for breakfast" I would say et as the emphasis of the sentence is on the pancakes and breakfast

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