I am writing an incident report on a client of mine who bit me on the shoulder causing a red mark... He is a youngster who did this suddenly as I was playing with him. This will possibly be read by the insurance company and certainly by my supervisors. Is the following sentence acceptable?

Client suddenly sunk his teeth into staff's shoulder creating a red bite mark

"To sink one's teeth into something" is defined in the dictionary as getting oneself very involved in a subject matter, etc.

I was wondering if I could use it literally as in the above scenario. Also, there was no blood on my skin, but the bite mark was evident. Does my usage correctly relay the incident?

  • The simple past of to sink is sank. Sunk is the past participle. He sinks his teeth into X today; he sank his teeth into X yesterday; he has sunk his teeth into X many times before.
    – stangdon
    May 17, 2018 at 12:52

2 Answers 2


In general, many expressions that are idioms are also used literally (the idiom meaning is usually more common, but not by much). In this particular case, using "sunk his teeth into" is perfectly fine for the following reasons:

  • It's clear that it's not being used figuratively. (If there was a chance of it being confusing, you could add the adverb "literally".)
  • The literal meaning is also in the dictionary:
    • (sink something into) [with object] Cause something sharp to penetrate (a surface)
      ‘the dog sank its teeth into her arm’
      Oxford Dictionaries

  • It is, in fact, used literally in essentially the exact same manner as you're using it:

Side note: "staff" in the sentence doesn't sound right to me because you're only referring to a single person and it lacks an article. It sounds better to say "... sunk his teeth into a staff member's shoulder..."


sink your teeth into something has several meanings but not the one you intend.

Actually your description is pretty close. Maybe:

The client suddenly bit me/staff on the shoulder, leaving a red mark but not breaking the skin.

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