Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Grammar moment: Oh, those confusing verbs!

A comment on another post raised the question of the difference between the verbs lie and lay. In addition to that pair, two others often cause confusion: sit/set and rise/raise. All three pairs have the same problem -- one verb is intransitive, meaning that when you do it, you do it yourself and you don't do it to some other person or object, while the other is transitive, which means you do it TO something.

Intransitive: lie -- to recline
Present tense: I lie on the beach all the time. WCMIK lies on the beach all the time.
Past tense: I lay on the beach yesterday.
Present participle: I like lying on the beach.
Past participle: I have lain on the beach every day for a month.

Transitive: lay -- to put (something) down
Present tense: I lay flowers on the memorial every month. WCMIK lays them too.
Past tense: I laid flowers there yesterday.
Present participle: Laying flowers is a valuable tradition.
Past participle: I have laid flowers for many years.

Intransitive: sit -- to be seated
Present tense: I always sit in the front row at the cinema. WCMIK always sits in the front row.
Past tense: I sat in the front row yesterday.
Present participle: Sitting in the front row is good.
Past participle: I have sat in the front row for ages.

Transitive: set -- to put (something) down
Present tense: I set the table every day. WCMIK sets the table every day.
Past tense: I set the table yesterday.
Present participle: My favorite chore is setting the table.
Past participle: WCMIK has set the table for years.

Intransitive: rise -- to get up
Present tense: I rise every day at noon. WCMIK rises every day at noon.
Past tense: One day, many years ago, I rose at eleven.
Present participle: Rising earlier doesn't work for me.
Past participle: I have risen at noon for most of my life.

Transitive: raise -- to lift or bring (something) up
Present tense: I raise well-behaved cats. WCMIK raises well-behaved cats.
Past tense: My old English teacher raised well-behaved cats when I was a kid.
Present participle: Raising well-behaved cats is essential.
Past participle: Smart people have raised well-behaved cats since the days of ancient Egypt.

All of this may be difficult to memorize; the best way to learn is through practice. But the key question to ask, whichever of these verb pairs is giving you trouble, is "Is there a direct object? Is this action being done TO something?" If the answer is yes, you use the transitive form. If not, use the intransitive.

Finally, a word to all of the dog owners and trainers out there: Please stop teaching your pets improper grammar! Don't command them to "lay down" when what you really want them to do is "lie down."


Anonymous dr Pants said...

Lay and lie... You make grammar less comlicated. I think you may have found an entry niche! Keep posting these! Later on you can put it all together in a book... Cool.

Thu Jul 28, 04:45:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous jesse said...

Bless you. I will keep those questions coming. Intrasitive: rue. You may come to rue being the goto english queen. BTW, where does lain come in?

Thu Jul 28, 07:51:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous jesse said...

p.s. got your someone somebody response below. Thanks again!

Thu Jul 28, 07:54:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Ques numero dos: When do you use 'lit'? and when do you use 'lighted'? Is it He lit the hurricane lamp? or He lighted the hurricane lamp?

Thu Jul 28, 07:56:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

Ah, you've mentioned "raise".

Now, how about "rear" (as in "child-rearing, to rear children properly")?

Thu Jul 28, 12:13:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

...unless Fido has a mouthful of duck feathers and you need to tell your dog to put down the down without it sounding like a put-down?

or, if Fido is carrying a jug of laundry softener to you, you could say, "Fido! Lay down the Downy!"

Thu Jul 28, 12:16:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Mom said...

Hurray! The John Denver song always puzzled me. Why would someone want a bed full of feathers? "Lay down beside me."

Next challenge: He and I vs. him and me!

Thu Jul 28, 09:15:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

Jess, lain is the past participle of lie. Lit is much more common in American usage, while lighted (for the past tense) is seen, though with decreasing frequency, in British usage. And even in Britain, lighted is becoming obsolete.

Pat, rear is used exclusively to describe the bringing up of children. Raise is used for all other things. You rear children, but you raise vegetables, as any fan of The Fantasticks should be able to tell you.

Fri Jul 29, 12:10:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Pat said...

When I said,
"Now how about "rear" (as in "child-rearing, to rear children properly")?" I was hoping not only to stir up folks not only about the misuse of the rear/raise pair, which most folks don't think about at all or realize that they're misusing, but also to solicit comments about how some children to be not only not reared properly, nor even raised in the sense of domesticated livestock, but almost seem left to a wild, primitive state of "me-firstness".

Mon Aug 01, 05:59:00 PM MDT  

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