Sorry for the topic.

  1. I think I've sh-- myself.

  2. I think I've sh-- my pants.

Does the first mean the same as the second?

  • 14
    To shit oneself is more general. You can shit yourself whatever the circumstances, but to shit your pants you need to be wearing some. May 30, 2021 at 19:28
  • 4
    @MichaelHarvey if you are insisting on the practicalities to the degree you seem to, then I could point out that in lack of wearing pants, the alternative would probably be not shitting oneself, but rather, shitting the floor. (Unless, on a second thought, if sitting in the meanwhile, which could involve somewhat different results (involving, I anticipate, shitting the sitting surface and oneself in the same go. I wonder which turn of English could express that).) Interesting topic, nevertheless!
    – Levente
    May 30, 2021 at 19:36
  • 1
    While indicating the fact that I speak English as a second/foreign language, +1 for "shat", in past tense.
    – Levente
    May 30, 2021 at 19:40
  • 1
    @Levente the expression for "the sitting surface and oneself" is I've shat all over the place. :D (This is only funny if you know that "shitting all over" means "to ruin other people's ideas or plans with hostile criticism".)
    – SeamusJ
    May 31, 2021 at 3:41
  • 2
    There is also the possibility of metaphoric use of the first example. "I shat myself as the Boss read the report, and started frowning" does not mean a dirty backside, just extreme nervousness.
    – PcMan
    Jun 1, 2021 at 6:59

2 Answers 2


Yes, the meanings are practically equivalent. Michael Harvey makes an argument that one can always shit oneself but can only shit one's pants if one is wearing pants to begin with; a counterargument is that if one is not wearing pants, it's more likely to shit the floor rather than oneself. In the event one is wearing pants the distinction is slight, but someone lying in a hospital bed wearing nothing but a gown probably would not say "I've shit my pants."

The verb tense used is the present perfect and technically should take the past participle shat: "I think I have just shat myself." But in modern usage "shit" can be used as the past particle instead.

  • 11
    "shat" is a relatively modern (18th century) invention. It has no basis in etymology, and was probably intended to be humourous (like kids inventing "yote" as the past tense of "yeet") It is technically more correct to use "I've shit..." but does anybody care about technical accuracy when they are using vulgar language?
    – James K
    May 30, 2021 at 22:24
  • 6
    @JamesK ...or, you know, right after they shat themselves?
    – Levente
    May 31, 2021 at 3:49
  • Isn't it a bit sexist to suppose that those who aren't wearing 'pants' are naked below the waist? I know about the the US/UK pants/trousers thing. May 31, 2021 at 9:23
  • 2
    "if one is not wearing pants, it's more likely to shit the floor rather than oneself" Be very careful about the definition of "pants" here, as there are Br/Am differences.
    – Flater
    May 31, 2021 at 10:18
  • 2
    @Flater - also northern/southern English differences. Up north here (England) they say 'pants' for trousers. Down south, men's 'pants' are underpants, like e.g. boxer shorts. Ladies wear knickers. May 31, 2021 at 12:26

You ask about the correct usage of, “I’ve sh—.” I took you as asking about the past participle. If you only meant to Bowdlerize, I hope you still find this interesting.

James K had an excellent comment pointing out that shat is not widely-used. In fact, it started as a joke only a few centuries ago. You’ll more commonly hear, in America, “He’s shit himself.” You’ll also hear, “He shitted his pants when he heard,” and perhaps “He’s shitted.” I’ve personally never heard people where I live say shat, but Google Ngrams says that shat is nine times more common than shitted, so my experience isn’t typical. Shite caught on in England too late to make it over to the colonies, but was more common in Scotland and Ireland.

Most irregular verbs that form the past tense with a vowel change used to be what are called strong verbs in Old English. A clue that shit/shat is not really one of them: its past participle is not *shitten or *shatten, so it does not match the patterns of bite/bit/bitten or eat/ate/eaten. Neither is it *shut, like swing/swang/swung or stink/stank/stunk.

There are, though, two other common verbs just like shit/shat/shat. That’s why it was funny to pretend to care about using proper grammar for profanity, and on top of that be ridiculously wrong. (My Fair Lady and Pygmalion are famous plays that mock how snobbish the English upper class used to be about how people spoke.) Eventually, though, everybody forgot that it started as a joke.

Those verbs got the way they are by very different paths. There’s spit/spat/spat, which began as a regular verb with the conjugations spit/spitted/spitted. The two dental consonants T and D in -tted ran into each other and became -t. It’s called a dental consonant because, when you make the sound t, your tongue is by your upper teeth. The people who were in such a hurry also started moving their tongues there sooner, while they were still saying the vowel before the T. Moving the tongue to the front of the mouth like this fronted the vowel, like meet/met/met, fight/fought/fought. or shoot/shot/shot. When I say the it in spit, with my American accent, my tongue starts a short distance above my teeth and moves down. When I say the at in spat, my tongue barely moves vertically at all, although I do move it forward to touch my upper front teeth. Or, to look at it another way, my tongue moves the same distance from saying SP to saying T, and I say a vowel with my tongue somewhere in between, but I move my tongue further before I say the A in spat than I do before I say the I in spit. All those other examples had the vowel get shorter too, as people said it faster, but the I in spit is already short.

There’s also sit/sat/sat. Sit used to be a strong verb with a past participle seten, which disappeared. This might be because seten sounded just like the past participle of set, which also changed, or by analogy with spit.

Another way shit/shat/shat might have come about, but didn’t, is as a different class of strong verbs like sing/sang/sung (or my other examples above). If there had once been a hypothetical shit/shat/*shut, the last form might have sounded too much like the actual verb shut and disappeared like seten.

There are other paradigms as well. slit used to be slit/slitted/slitten, but is now either slit/slit/slit or slit/slitted/slitted.

Shit is actually just like fit, knit, split or quit. They once were regular verbs that ended in T, added -ed, and doubled the T so we would know to say itt and not ite, forming shitted. Some people but not others clipped the ending -tted to -t. Not everybody did, so the regular form did not disappear completely, unlike with the word hit. Long vowels became short, for example light/lit/lit, but vowels that were already short usually did not change. Spat is an exception, and people also say both spit/spit/spit and spit/spitted/spitted.

Only certain words from Old English went through this process. The Danes reached England early enough that there are a few Norse words that did, such as cast. There are also a few French words like hurt. Any words that entered the language more recently, such as submit, permit and benefit, are regular.

Shat is not the only verb that became irregular in modern English by imitating an irregular verb it rhymes with. Some people say “I dove” instead of “I dived.” This is based on the conjugation of strive, but since that’s an authentic strong verb, it’s conjugated strive/strove/striven (although the I in strive is now pronounced ai and the I in striven as a short I). You can tell because the copycat only coined the word dove, and there is no *diven.

This won’t help you remember which verb works one way and which one works another way. There’s no rule here, just a bunch of exceptions to memorize. I think this is interesting. But, on behalf of my ancestors, I apologize.

  • 1
    I've heard people use both "shit" and "shat" as a past tense, but never "shitted". May 31, 2021 at 17:19
  • 1
    I suspect that "shat" didn't just stick around due to people forgetting it was a joke. As the word became more acceptable, people found it useful to have a different form for the past and present. While "shitted" isn't exactly hard to say, it's a bit harder than "shat," with that quick tongue movement between two dental consonants (unless one's accent glottalizes the /t/). That quick movement also possibly contributed to "shit" being its own past tense form in the first place--normally vulgarities,. like neologisms, take on the standard -ed form, e.g. fucked, bitched, damned, dicked, etc.
    – trlkly
    Jun 1, 2021 at 3:52
  • 1
    I hate to be that guy, but: as much as I find this answer useful and interesting, I can't help but notice that it doesn't answer the question that was asked. It's more like a (very long) comment on an issue that was raised by another answer. We should definitely keep it, but I suggest to edit it and add a disclaimer at the top, so that readers know what to expect and may decide whether they want to read it. Otherwise it should be moved to a separate question. Sorry for being pedantic! Jun 1, 2021 at 13:25
  • 1
    Where is the question about the past tense form that this seems to be an answer to?
    – Barmar
    Jun 1, 2021 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Davislor I interpreted the "--" to be avoiding writing a rude word, not a blank for you to fill in with the answer. The question is about whether the sentences are equivalent with the two different direct objects.
    – Barmar
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:48

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