1. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Verb tense issues.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by garmar69, Oct 25, 2008.

    This may be better suited for the SPAG forum; I'm not sure.

    Even knowing the difference, does anyone else make these mistakes when writing?

    Mixing up your/you’re?

    Or: (These are supposed to be examples of correct usage by the way.)

    I laid the fork down. Past tense.
    I lay the fork down. Present tense.

    I don’t know why, in present tense, “laid,” sounds right to me. However, lay, which is correct, doesn’t sound right to me. I can’t seem to get my head around the lay/lie usage rules.

    Somewhere along the way I’ve picked up several bad habits that need to be broken.

    Has anyone had any these problems and successfully cured one or all of them?

    Maybe a mnemonic device that worked?

    In addition, if anyone has (or once had) different, but related issues, could you outline the problem, and how you dealt with it?

    Thanks, garmar.
     
  2. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I keep writing "than" as "then," probably because I consider chronological sequences more often than comparisons. It's annoying how a part of my brain flags "than" as odd and foreign no matter how many times I tell it that it's not.

    I think I have less trouble with its/it's or your/you're-- no, actually, I just felt a tiny reflex-wrestle with my pinky so that it wouldn't put an apostrophe in "your," so I must have been carelessly using "you're" for "your" up until now :eek:

    Past tense verb forms commonly end in -ed. So, for past tense, laid is just the tricky but correct form of the way the word would be put together: (verb)(tense)--> lay(ed)--> laid.

    On the other hand, a part of me is convinced that the confusion doesn't have so much to do with tenses, as it has to do with subjects and objects. If the narrator were an anthropomorphic grammarian fork with nobody moving him, he would never say "I laid down," even in past tense.

    To LAY means ‘to set down or place an object' ... there's an object involved. To LIE in the sense that gets confused with lay, means 'to recline'.
    It's extra confusing when the past tense of 'lie' is 'lay' not 'lied' (past tense of 'lie' in the sense of 'to spread untruth') but the past tense of 'lay' is 'laid.'
     
  3. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    This should probably be in SPAG, but whatever. Ask a mod to move it or something.


    The issue is that "lie" is the present tense of an intransitive verb, which refers to the subject resting on a surface. It does not take a direct object, and thus, will always be separated from the following noun by a preposition.

    "Lay" is the present tense of a transitive verb, which refers to putting something against/on a surface. It takes a direct object and will not be followed directly by a preposition.

    I have never found a mnemonic that worked, but have always managed fairly well with the preposition rule.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    These aren't entirely word tense issues, so much as usage issues and irregular verbs.

    I'm moving the thread to SPAG though, as it seems the best place for it.
     
  5. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Posted by Cogito:
    Thank you, sorry about the extra work.:redface: I pondered at the time, is this a general writing issue, (common problems people have) or SPAG because of usage issues.

    Thanks again.
     
  6. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is very helpful. My Little Brown Handbook doesn't go nearly in depth as you did here. Thank you; I'm printing this off and pinning it to my shirt if I have to.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i haven't had the problem, but i'd think the best way to overcome it if you have it is to just study the grammar rules and 'learn' the right way to do it... failing that, keep these sites handy in your favorites:

    http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/index.html

    http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/grammar/tenses.html

    this one is handy, too:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_overvw.html
     
  8. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    When I see or write "you're" I think/hear "you are", so I never really confuse it with "your" (because, to me, it would be like confusing "you are" with "your", which is considerably less likely)

    Funnily enough, I have a problem with "they're" and "their", because I think/hear them the same. Probably if I practice hearing "they're" as "they are" I wouldn't confuse them any more.

    Does that make sense? It might help.
     
  9. ieuan
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    ieuan Senior Member

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    An Example of Lieing or is it Laying

    'I don't lie,’
     
  10. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Huh, I never knew 'lain' was a real word...


    Edit: Oh wait, "The line of coke was lain across a dollar bill"

    I did know that. Fairly limited range of usage, though, isn't it?
     
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  11. ieuan
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    ieuan Senior Member

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    Garmar, Actually.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, because it's incorrect grammar... correct usage would be, '...had been lain...'...it's the 'past perfect progressive' tense...
     
  13. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    I never realised how much I ought to hate that word 'til now...
     
  14. ieuan
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    ieuan Senior Member

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    We are all.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can't stand 'its' confused with 'it's'--one of my pet hates.
    I like writing 'can not' for emphasis, but WORD grammar thinks it knows better than me and corrects it to 'cannot'. (Actually, I often have fights with WORD--another e.g: in academic writing, passive voice is often necessary, and it doesn't like passive.)
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is simply a case of a word we often find in the written form, but seldom use in the spoken.

    Think about it. How often would you actually use the verb to lay in this context?

    At least in the U.S., I think the more common construction would be, "I put the fork down."
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true... or 'set' it down... the point is that the present tense 'lay' must have an object...
     
  18. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That makes sense Wrey. I guess that is why, even now that I've pretty much trained myself in the correct usage, I still think it sounds wonky.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think of myself as a pretty decent wordsmith and I avoid using that verb at all costs. I can never remember which is used when.
     
  20. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol, I just ripped page 230 out of my Little, Brown Handbook and hung it off a wire about a foot in front of my face until it took. :D
     

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