Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Days: Day 13 — What to do if you're tired.

Welcome back! Can you believe we're almost halfway through the month? I hope you've learned a little something you didn't already know, or you've at least been entertained. Every time I sit down to write a post, I learn something new. You may think I really am the "Grammar Queen," as my family calls me, but the truth is that I only know the basics of grammar, punctuation, and usage. Everything else I look up. Really! I keep a stack of books on my desk and refer to them daily. I have:
  • Merriam Webster's College Dictionary
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed.
  • The Gregg Reference Manual, 10th ed.
  • Progressing with Courage, Rod and Staff Publishers' 6th-grade English text
  • King James Bible
I also have a few other English texts, the four style guides my children had to buy for their college English classes, a thesaurus, and a few "fun" style books. If you want a dose of word-nerd laughter, get The Elephants of Style and Lapsing into a Comma, both by Bill Walsh. Between all my references and Google, there's not a grammar question I can't answer, although I have been known to ask my mother's opinion on occasion (she is a retired English teacher).

If you think you didn't learn anything in school, don't sweat it. Just get the Rod and Staff 6th-grade English book I listed above, and teach yourself. Whenever you're not sure about something, look it up. There are some fabulous websites out there that teach grammar in very easy-to-understand terms. Remember: Google is your friend. You'll find the sites you like best, (Pick the reputable ones. Wiki- anything is not reputable.) and you can bookmark them for future reference. It's never too late to learn good grammar!

Today's lesson centers on what to do when you're tired. Do you lie down or lay down?

Lie = rest or recline

Lay = put or place (something)

And that's it. If you rest or recline, you lie. If you put or place (something), you lay (something). Did you notice that lay always has a direct object, or something that gets laid down? That's the difference.

          I lie on the bed. I would rather lie on the beach.

          I lay the blanket on the bed. I would rather lay a towel on the beach.

In the second set, see how there's something that gets laid down? That's the direct object. It gets the action of the verb lay. It tells what gets laid down.

So far, so good, right? Well hold on, because here's where it gets tricky.

Let's add the past tense and the participle of each verb:

                           lie:                                                             lay:

(present)        Today I lie.                                                Today I lay the book on the table.
(past)             Yesterday I lay.                                          Yesterday I laid the book on the table.
(participle)     In the past, I have lain.                              In the past, I have laid the book on the table.

See how the past tense of lie is the same word as the present tense lay?

Don't ask why. I not sure even the Victorians could justify this mess. It's just one of those things you have to learn. When you first start using the proper forms of lie and lay, it will sound extremely awkward to you (and to everyone listening, because they don't know any better), but you have the advantage of knowing the truth, and knowledge is power!

One more thing—remember when I said if you're not going to speak correct grammar, don't expect your children to learn it out of a textbook? I was serious about that. If you are teaching your children at home and really want them to retain the grammar you spend hours teaching them, do two things: learn it yourself and be the example; and get a copy of ABeka's Oral Language Exercises and do them.  Each day there is a series of sentences that focuses on a particular aspect of grammar (such as lie/lay). You read a sentence and then your students repeat it. Do all 20 or 40 sentences. That's it. Easy-peasy. It trains your children's brains to think that what is correct sounds right. And that's when they'll start speaking with good grammar—when it sounds right to them.

Do the exercises every day. Go through the book every year. Year after year after year until they (and you) can just about recite it from memory. This is the BEST thing you can do for your English program.

Years ago when we were still in the Navy and my kids were maybe 4, 7, 9, 10, and 12, we went to a retirement ceremony where a well-known Navy poem was read. In it, there's a (present tense) line that goes, "and lay about smartly." When that line was read, Leah, the 9 year old, leaned over and whispered to me, "Lie."

In spite of the fact that she didn't understand the nautical term lay about, she knew by listening there was no direct object, so the word should be lie. Her ability to pick out the wrong word instantly didn't come from doing worksheets or listening to me lecture. It came from hearing the words used correctly over and over and over again. It became habit in her mind. It can in yours too.

And now I'm tired. I'm going to lie in my bed. I'm also going to lay my body down.  ;)

Be thankful ~


Kayla said...

Quite helpful. This will come in handy on those few occasions that I get to actually announce to the room that I am going to take a nap!

Melinda said...

Thank you for this post! "Lie" and "lay" are two words I have a tendency to avoid because I'm never sure which one is appropriate to use. I think your post will help me to remember.

Thank you also for the recommendation on Abeka's oral grammar book. I had been wondering about the best way to teach my children grammar so that they actually use it correctly in real life and not just for workbook pages.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I can still hear my teacher reminding me the rules of 'lay and lie' - to put or place, or to recline. I think that it does get tricky when you're mentioning tenses. This was an excellent reminder to me today. I was also preparing our lessons for future homeschool days and noticed that there is an entire day set aside for learning this in my daughter's 7th grade grammar book. =)

You know, while I'm thinking about it...I remembered something that drives my hubby crazy...that would be the word, or usage of the word, 'stood' vs. 'stayed'. Just a thought if you get bored. =)

Sarah said...

I enjoyed reading this! And it's nice to FINALLY know when to use lay and lie.