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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sleeping Dogs

One of the little grammar hang ups that had me, well, hung up for years was the whole "lay, lie" situation.  Which didn't bother me, even when writing for newspapers, because there was always a handy reference guide and an editor to make the save.

Then I had kids.  And heard myself yelling, night after night, "LAY DOWN!" 

Which is incorrect.

Now, I've noticed that my kids say things like "yeah" and "like" a lot.  They say what I say, and it's less than ideal and we're working on it.  But a lot worse [read: harder to root out] than yeah and like are clear grammar errors that will plague them forever and make them look dumb to people who know. 

Since this is a common one (when we studied both verbs in CC last year, a lot of moms were confused) I'm going to lay it out for you, as the first of a few grammar blogs.  I hope someone takes it to heart because fixing things in ourselves (not just grammar, but attitudes and behaviors too!) is the best way to instill good habits in our kids.

Ok. The reason I was wrong when I yelled "lay down" is because to lay means to put.  It was like yelling "drop it!" when I meant to yell just, "DROP!"

To lay is to put.  To lie, on the other hand, means to recline.  Put differently, you lay other things; you yourself lie.

All the drama comes from the past tense, because, in a cruel twist, the past tense of to lie is....lay.

So, today I will lie on the couch just as yesterday, I lay on the couch.

But I will lay my plate of cheesecake beside me, just where I laid it yesterday.

And at the end of the day, as I lie by the cheesecake that I've laid on the couch, I probably will have to yell, "LIE DOWN!"