Posts Tagged ‘lay or lie?’

I haven’t done a grammar post for ages, but while helping a friend this weekend, a few current peeves came to mind.  I really don’t write about these just to blow off steam, but to help you become a better, more concise writer and speaker.  Really!!  🙂

Today, let’s look at whether you should use between or among, when “at” is just too much, what to do when you’re talking directly to someone in print, and whether to use lie or lay?  Ready?  Let’s go.

1.  Between or among?
“Between” is used when there are two of something, “among” when there are three or more. In the following picture, the tall giraffe is between the other two.  Among the three, I don’t know which I like the best (not better, which is also used with only two.)

IMG_0353

2At
I often hear people ask things such as “Where are you at?”, “Where’s the dog at?”, “Where’s the party at?”  At is a preposition which means, without going into any heavy grammar, it needs an object, something that answers the question “Where/where?”   He’s at  (what?) the house, at (what?) the party, at (what?) the zoo.  The dog’s at (what?) the neighbor’s house, digging in the yard.  After the neighbor comes after him with a broom, he’ll be at (what/where) home.  I might be at (where?) the end of my wits at (what?) the antics of my children.

But at doesn’t come at (where?) the end of a sentence.  In that position, there’s no object, no answer to the question. All you need to ask is “Where are you?”  “Where’s the dog?”  “Where’s the party?”

3.  I’m talking to you! 
If you’re talking to me, or anyone, directly when writing, you need to use a comma or commas to set their name apart from the rest of the sentence.  It’s simple.  Look at these examples.

“I left a comment on Rosalind’s blog.”   No comma, as you’re not talking directly to Rosalind.

“I left a comment on your blog, Rosalind.”    Comma!  You’re talking to her in person (so to speak), so you need that comma.

“I think, Rosalind, that you need to change the ending of your story.”  Two commas needed, to set the name aside from the rest of the sentence.

Here are examples of places in Blog Land that you need these commas:

“Great story, Jack!”
“That poem, Ann, is simply superb!”
“Rick, the colors in that photo are so vivid!”

4. Application…

*Among these three tips, which do you find most useful?  Which tip is between the other two?

*Which is correct: Where are you while reading this post or Where are you at while reading this post?

*Will anyone comment, “Janet, this is one of the most useful posts I’ve read for some time.”  Or will it be “Great post Janet?”

I hope these hints will help your writing improve.  Have any grammar peeves of your own?  Feel free to leave them in the comments.  But don’t leave them where the comments are at!

 5. Lie or lay

Can’t believe I forgot this one!  If you pay close attention, this is fairly easy.  When you’re in the present, right now, you lay something down–there has to be an object.  I lay the book down right now, I lay a kiss on my husband tonight, I lay the plates on the table.  Each answers the question: I/you/he/she/whoever/whatever lay what down?

Unless you’re a liar and you lie about something, lie is used when someone goes to sleep or at least gets into bed for that purpose (or perhaps for other purposes.)  You lie down to take a nap; no direct object, nothing to answer the question: You lie what down?  Of course, you can lie on places other than the bed, such as the floor, to relax your back, but you get the idea.

*To recap:  You lay something down but you lie down.   Remember, that’s all when something is happening now and that’s when the two are most often used incorrectly.

If you want a little bit more, the past tense is where things get slightly confusing, but I have confidence you can get it.  The past tense of lie is…oh, no…LAY.   No worries!  Just remember these two sentences:

*Today I lie down to sleep.  Yesterday (in the past) I lay down to sleep.

The past tense of lay is laid.  Here are your sentences:

*Today I lay the book on the table.  Yesterday I laid the book on the table.

OK.  I’m going to lay down my laptop and shortly I will lie down to sleep, secure in the knowledge that between the two of us, we’ve conquered these grammar bugbears.  Among all of you reading this, most of you will be able to put this information into use soon.  Where will you be, my friends and readers, when you do?  (Why the commas?  Remember, I’m talking to you! And don’t forget, I didn’t say, “Where will you be at, my friends and readers, when you do?”)

Thanks for sticking with this sticky subject and for being friends and readers!