Sunday, 20 April 2008

Pedants' Corner

To lay and to lie...

A lot of people have problems with when to use lay and when to use lie. I know that lay is transitive, i.e. you lay something, an egg or a table, but lie is intransitive, i.e. you lie on the bed.

But I blush to confess, I only realized recently they are two entirely different verbs, that happen to share 'lay' as the present tense of to lay, and the past tense of to lie. For more details, see here.

It's left me wondering what else I don't know...


  1. You mean to tell me that there are rules to this writing thing? Geez. I thought we were all about artistic freedom. Expression of the inner soul and so forth.

    I feel claustrophobic already.

  2. Hey Alan, I enjoyed your What Makes You Happy? post.

    My list is not that different from yours. Apart from spending quality time with your wife, children and dog, of course. And singing. Definitely not singing. Even I hate my singing.

    But I digress! Rules - I think there are the craft rules (spelling, grammar, punctuation) which are as essential as a jeweller knowing how to solder, and the artistic rules which any right-thinking writer makes a point of flouting.

    So there. (Stroppy? Moi?)

  3. Lexi,

    You are welcome to spend time, quality or otherwise, with members of my household whenever the mood strikes. I cannot, however, offer guarantees regarding their amiability at any particular hour.

    Stroppy? What is stroppy? Does it refer to the leather strap barbers used to use, and may still, for all I know, for sharpening their blades?

    You must know I am all about rules. Find a rule and stick to it like horsehide glue, that's my philosophy. But I will admit to having to find the nearest copy of Elements of Style when faced with a lay/lie situation. Often as not I take the coward's way out and rewrite to eliminate the need.

    The rest of the morning (it is 8:17AM as we speak) after delivering Megan and her latest project to school, walking the dogs (they are anxious already) and mopping half the house, is to finally finish my notes for Cat, bless her patient heart.

  4. And they will be worth the wait.

    I've got the daughter reading the latest version of Rising Fire, and she commented favourably on the spear-tilting bit on page 1 suggested by you (without my asking her what she thought of it first).

    Stroppy means balky, reluctant, perverse. I used to call Minty 'a dangerous alien from planet Stroppy' after Ian Hislop described Paul Merton in those terms.

  5. It doesn't half get complicated at times, this language of ours! Got to feel sorry for those learning English!


  6. Ooh, I don't know, Nik...

    I employed a French jeweller, and she said English was easy because most nouns and verbs don't change that much and we haven't got genders for nouns (I've never understood the point of that).

    And of course, it is The Best Language In The World.

  7. Fair point. I've often thought how I'm lucky I don't have to learn English though! ALl those same words - different meaning - different pronunciations! Live forever/ Live, tonight!

    Not that I'm complaining! It is the best!

    Nik :)

  8. You've been tagged! See my blog for details.

    Nik :)