Thursday, September 2, 2010

Word Usage Confusion

Many writers confuse word usage mostly because of past and present tense. So today, I have a fun word usage game using ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’. No, I did not come up with this. I actually did this at a writing brunch a few months back, but before we jump into the game, I would love to share a great way to avoid using either of these words. Why? Because trying to remember which one to use can be annoying so why do it to yourself. I understand there will be times you cannot get away from not using one or even both of them in your writing, but here is a trick to help you.

Replace the word (lay or lie) with ‘place.’ If that does not work try ‘rest.’ Place is for use when the object is physically disconnected from the person doing the action.

Problem: LAY is both the past tense of LIE and it its own base form. This is why many writers have a hard time knowing which one to use. You can try memorizing the following, which was shared with me at the writer’s brunch:

LIE

Present tense: Lie

Past tense: Lay

Present Participle: Lying

Past Participle: Lain

LAY

Present tense: Lay

Past tense: Laid

Present Participle: Laying

Past Participle: Laying

Now let’s test your writing know how!

Present Tense

1. Jim (lies/lays) his keys on the table every evening.

2. The red toy fish (lies/lays) on the living room floor to this day.

3. Mother wants her toddler to (lie/lay) the toy on the shelf.

Past Tense-Lay or Laid

1. Yesterday I (lay/laid) my head on the pillow for comfort.

2. Two days ago, I lost my keys after I (lay/laid) them on the kitchen counter.

3. His parents noticed that Morgan (lay/laid) down quite a bit yesterday.

Past Participle or Tense: Lain, Laying, or Laid

1. Susie has (lain/laid) on the basement sofa for two days now.

2. Kevin has (lain/laid) roses on his wife’s grave every July since she died.

3. You won’t find Maggie (laid/laying) her books down anywhere else.

A Few More to Test Your Knowledge

1. If you (lie/lay) on this sofa before noon, you’ll damage the newly washed fabric.

2. Beth was so exhausted; she (lay/laid) her ring on the counter top before (lying/laying) down for the evening.

3. If you had (lain/laid) your keys on the table where they belong, you wouldn’t be looking for them now.

4. Are you sure Irina is (lying/laying) new floor title in her bathroom?

5. The delicate red rose continues to (lie/lay) on the treasured book.

6. I saw a weird cartoon yesterday in which Casper, a friendly host, removed his head and (lay/laid) it on a pillow.

7. Mother said that Father could have worked yesterday, but he chose to (lie/lay) around the house.

If you’re bold, place your answers in the comments section. In addition, to make this even more interesting . . . the first person to get them all correct gets a free critique (first 10 pages) from me!

Note: I will post the answers on Friday at the end of our special guest interview and announce our winner.

6 comments:

  1. Now there's something I mess up on often! I'll remember the 'place' trick.

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  2. It's a great trick to use and really helps avoid the confusion.

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  3. Present Tense
    1. Jim (lays) his keys on the table every evening.
    2. The red toy fish (lies) on the living room floor to this day.
    3. Mother wants her toddler to (lay) the toy on the shelf.

    Past Tense-Lay or Laid
    1. Yesterday I (laid) my head on the pillow for comfort.
    2. Two days ago, I lost my keys after I (laid) them on the kitchen counter.
    3. His parents noticed that Morgan (lay) down quite a bit yesterday.

    Past Participle or Tense: Lain, Laying, or Laid
    1. Susie has (lain) on the basement sofa for two days now.
    2. Kevin has (laid) roses on his wife’s grave every July since she died.
    3. You won’t find Maggie (laying) her books down anywhere else.

    A Few More to Test Your Knowledge
    1. If you (lie) on this sofa before noon, you’ll damage the newly washed fabric.
    2. Beth was so exhausted; she (laid) her ring on the counter top before (lying) down for the evening.
    3. If you had (laid) your keys on the table where they belong, you wouldn’t be looking for them now.
    4. Are you sure Irina is (laying) new floor title in her bathroom?
    5. The delicate red rose continues to (lie) on the treasured book.
    6. I saw a weird cartoon yesterday in which Casper, a friendly host, removed his head and (laid) it on a pillow.
    7. Mother said that Father could have worked yesterday, but he chose to (lie) around the house.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing this. Those words can certainly be tricky!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I struggle with this one too. Thanks for the refresher.

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  6. I struggle with this all the time which is why I simply try to avoid using lay/lie whenever I can.

    ReplyDelete