Thinkin’ on Thursday: I May Be Lying, But . . .

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Sometime, way back in elementary school, one of my teachers gave us a little “chant” to help us in figuring out the proper forms of verbs:

Now I . . .

Yesterday I . . .

I am . . .

I have . . .

[Though I didn’t realize it at the time, these will yield the verb forms for the infinitive, the past, the present participle and the past participle. Never mind trying to remember — again — what all those labels designate; just thinking through the little chant will give you the help you need, unless you’re taking a grammar course in a college class: “Now I…Yesterday I…I am, I have…”

So I gift you with The Chant to help you think through what form to use for the verbs “lie” and “lay” (though, of course, they work with any verbs) which SO many of us use incorrectly

If you mean to recline, or assume or be in a lying position, you want to use “lie.”

If you mean to put or place something, you want to use “lay.”

Now, here are the chants — say them over and over and over, until it begins to “sound” right to you.

Reclining: “Now I lie…Yesterday I lay…I am lying…I have lain…”

Putting/placing something: “Now I lay…Yesterday I laid…I am laying…I have laid…”

Note that putting something down or placing it somewhere is the ONLY one which uses the word “laid.” And it uses “laid” twice.

Another hint for choosing the proper verb is to remember that more than one noun (person, place, thing) is required to put or place: one noun designates the person or thing doing the placing, the other is the thing placed. For instance:

Jane (person) laid (action) the book (thing) on the piano bench yesterday.

But what about that old nursery prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” ? ? ? “I” and “me” designate the same person. WRONG. In this case, you have two words (both pronouns, which stand in the place of the noun): I and ME — yes, they designate one single person, but in this case the person, I, is the one acting upon him‑ or herself, me; therefore, “I” am capable of putting myself, “me,” in a prone position.

If these last notes only serve to confuse you somehow, revert to The Chant:

Reclining: “Now I lie…Yesterday I lay…I am lying…I have lain…”

 

Placing: “Now I lay…Yesterday I laid…I am laying…I have laid…”

Good luck with that!

See you next for Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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