Monday, December 12, 2011

Let's Get This Right, People

Yes, folks, it's time for another English Teacher rant. You went to your English class day after day, passing notes, throwing spit balls, sticking gum to the underside of the desk. Was it too much to ask that you also  learn a little English while you were there?

Yes,yes, I know...there was the rally to discuss, and the boys to flirt with, and the bad hair days, and your jeans were too tight and cut oxygen off to your brain. I get it. So let's review a few things you were supposed to have learned while your English teacher's hair was slowly turning gray and the knots in her too-tense shoulders were solidifying into rocks.

For example, what's with that whole lie/lay thing? Is it really that tough to remember? Let's look at it.
"To lie" present tense, is what you do on your bed or your couch. Every day when I get home from teaching junior high school I lie on my couch, hold my head and mutter quietly. The past tense of this verb is "lay." So it is correct to say, "Last night as I lay sleeping I had a horrible nightmare in which zombie teenagers attacked me with poorly written persuasive essays." It is in fact very correct to say that. There's also something called the past participle. That's the form of the verb you use with the helping verbs have, had, or has. The past participle of  "to lie" is "lain." For example, "The textbook had lain unopened on his desk for the last fifteen minutes as the student carefully folded his worksheet into a complex paper airplane."


The  important thing to remember about the verb to lie is that is has no direct object. In other words, you don't lie something down. You just lie. That's where the verb "to lay" comes in. "To lay" means to put something down in a flat position. "Lay" must have a direct object; you have to lay something or someone. You can lay the baby in the crib or lay the foundation for the building. Most likely you will lay your textbook on the floor where it gets kicked under the bed, never to be seen again. The past tense and the past participle for this verb are both laid. "The girl laid her homework carefully in the dog's dish and then carefully measured a cup of its favorite food on top. She had laid her homework here successfully many times before."

Dog Food clipart

So to review.
Every day I lie on the couch quietly muttering to myself. Yesterday I lay there for over 3 hours, just muttering and clenching my fists. I have lain on this couch doing this very thing many, many times.
Sometimes I lay a large chocolate bar on the table next to me and nibble as I mutter. Last week I laid a large chocolate bar right on my desk and nibbled as I taught. I have laid many chocolate bars in my general vicinity over the last few years.

I hope all that makes sense. If it doesn't, feel free to ask questions. I'll just lay a few chocolate bars here on the table and wait. And mutter.