We can say "to poke me in the arm" as stated in dictionaries.

the verb "bite" is somehow similar to "poke" in its meaning because both mean to push into or through something.

But I don't see the structure "to bite somebody in the eye/arm" in dictionaries.

bite [intransitive, transitive] to use your teeth to cut into or through something

Does your dog bite?

Come here! I won't bite! (= you don't need to be afraid)

bite into/through something She bit into a ripe juicy pear.

bite somebody/something She was bitten by the family dog.

Stop biting your nails!

bite off something/sth off He bit off a large chunk of bread/He bit a large chunk of bread off.

It seems that the dictionary suggests to use "to bite something", for example, "to bite the arm/ the leg/ etc"

or, "to bite into something", for example, "to bite into the arm/ the leg/ etc".

But they don't have examples of "to bite somebody into something".

Is it idiomatic to say "don't bite me in the arm"?

  • Yes, you can say that. – Kate Bunting May 30 '20 at 9:54
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    I think "It bit me on the arm" is more usual than "It bit me in the arm." I've never heard "Don't bite me in the arm." We get hit in the face, the eye, the mouth, the groin and the tummy, but on the head, the back, the leg, the foot and the arm. And I think biting follows similar rules! – Old Brixtonian May 30 '20 at 10:13
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    Or just "it bit my arm." – TypeIA May 30 '20 at 20:26
  • Frankly speaking, if the verb 'bite' collocates with prepositional phrases with the head word 'in', it is a sign of erroneous usage, in the UK, for example. The reason is one well-known idiom that makes everyone smile, if somebody says something like 'don't bite me in ...' The accepted usage of the verb 'bite' is with a direct object or prepositional phrase having other head words. Though, such usage is accepted in some other countries where this idiom is unknown. – kngram May 30 '20 at 22:51

Your construction is grammatically valid, but it would be more idiomatic to say “don’t bite my arm!”

The only idiomatic use of “bite me in” is the idiom “bite [person] in the ass”.


No, this construction is impossible as idiomatic in the modern USA and UK variants of English. The verb bite has a large number of idiomatic grammar constructions and idiomatic expressions. All have been defined by its use for many years. Therefore, they are stable with their meaning in the modern usage. The expression don't bite me in the arm is the result of so called logical intersection of two well-known grammar constructions with own established meaning, if we take it as an idiom. That is why it could be totally incomprehensible as idiomatic for the native American and British English speakers.

Though, it is fairly possible that such construction could be acceptable as an idiom in some variants of minor dialects and slang of English in these countries.

  • Very good answer, but it’s worth stressing that although it’s not idiomatic, it’s always an acceptable construction. – Fivesideddice May 30 '20 at 10:30
  • Agree. Though, the question was about idiomacy of the construction, as it seemed to me. – kngram May 30 '20 at 10:34
  • Yes, true, but it’s best to avoid confusion :D – Fivesideddice May 30 '20 at 10:35
  • ) Nothing to argue about. – kngram May 30 '20 at 10:37
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    @kngram Idiomatic does not only mean ‘as a (fixed) idiom’ – it also means ‘natural and unremarkable, as spoken by a native speaker’. It is not idiomatic (= the natural phrasing a native speaker would use), but it is perfectly possible (a native speaker might use it occasionally), and it is completely comprehensible and unambiguous (no native speaker would ever be perplexed by it or unable to understand it if they heard it). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 2 '20 at 23:40

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