I love using words like myriad paint colors to create images in readers’ minds. The English language allows me to use a wide pallet while the rules of writing and grammar set the boundaries that define the edges. But, like any language, English has its idiosyncrasies. I would like to look at a couple.
First, have you ever pondered whether to use “lie” or “lay” in a given situation? The rule sounds simple, right? Lie is a complete verb; an action taken by someone or something. To recline. Simple. I lie down. So far, so good. Lay is a transitive verb. It is something that happens to an object. To put something down. I lay the book down.
The confusion, however, arises in that lay (present tense of lay) is also the past tense form of lie. What? Yes. Confusing, isn’t it? So, (present tense as in happing now) I lay the book on the table and lie down. But … wait for it … last night (past tense as in happened yesterday) I laid the book on the table and lay down. It is no wonder so many people have problems with these two words.
Okay, something a bit simpler … maybe. You. Why is the word “you” the same for both singular and plural? Why, in the past, when these decisions were being made, didn’t someone insist we need two different words: one form for the singular and another for the plural. No. Instead we end up with gems like y’all and yous guys in attempts to delineate the plural from the singular.
I and me. These seem straight forward. “I” is a subject pronoun. “Me” is an object pronoun. There seems to be a lot of confusion these days about which one to use and the standard default seems to be, when in doubt, use “I” even if the object pronoun is proper. NO.
Though you would say, “Sue and I (subject pronoun) made plans,” you wouldn’t say, “Sue made plans with I,” would you? No. You would say, “Sue made plans with me.” Correct. “Me” is the object of the preposition “with.” So, why do we say things like, “Sue made plans with Larry and I?” “With” is still a preposition, and the addition of “Larry” doesn’t change the fact that “me” is the object pronoun.
This default use of “I” when in doubt has gone so far now, I’ve seen it used as a possessive. For example: Larry’s and I’s plans. Whoa! Now that is just bad on so many levels. And yet I’ve seen it crop up more than once. My plans. Larry’s plans. Larry’s and my plans. Please not I’s plans.
On the flip side, please do not say, “Me and Larry are making plans.” Once again, subject pronouns should be used when referring to the subject. It should read, “Larry and I are making plans.” You wouldn’t say, “Me am making plans.” Well, I hope you wouldn’t. It just sounds weird. So, adding the other name or names doesn’t change the role of the pronoun.
I will throw out only one more example. I promise this will be the last, but I needed to share it since this one cropped up in one of my own books. How it got there, I do not know; but when I was re-reading A Weight of Reckoning, the sequel to my The Seven Words series, the other day, I cringed. The line is: It’s presence here at the altar tonight is real, sparking the air, lending us strength. It should read “Its presence here.” What is the difference? Normally, the ’s indicates possessive. But in this case the ’s creates a conjunction of “it” and “is”. So, as it is written, it says, “It is presence here at the altar.” Joy. Joy. Another interesting anomaly of the English language. The possessive of “it” is “its”, not “it’s”. Got that? LOL.
I hope I haven’t driven you away from reading my posts by delving into grammar. I promise to climb off my soapbox and choose a new topic for my next post.
Happy reading! Happy writing! Blessings to all!