For the Love of Words Part 2

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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.  

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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!

Author: C. S. Wachter

C. S. Wachter lives in rural Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, with her husband Joe, one German Shepherd, and three cats. She and Joe have been married for more than forty years and have three sons, one grandson and one granddaughter. Ms. Wachter earned her degree in Performing Arts and English Education from Rowan University in 1975. She compares developing a character’s perspective to preparing for an acting role. As a life-long lover of books, she has read and enjoyed a variety of genres. However, after reading J. R. R. Tolkien in middle school her favorite has been, and remains to this day, Fantasy with a Christian perspective. Published Works 2018 The Seven Words Epic Fantasy series The Sorcerer’s Bane (Indies Today 2020 award winner in Religion) The Light Arises The Deceit of Darkness The Light Unbound 2019 Demon’s Legacy: A Worlds of Ochen Short Story (based on The Seven Words series) A Weight of Reckoning (sequel to The Seven Words series) 2020 Stone Sovereigns YA Fantasy duology Lander’s Legacy Lander’s Choice. Various Flash Fiction pieces for Havok and in their anthology Stories That Sing Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cswachter/ Website: https://cswachter.com/ Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17719497.C_S_Wachter Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ch.ris8443 Twitter: https://twitter.com/CSWachter1 Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/C.-S.-Wachter/e/B079Y2R2PJ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1545059479&sr=1-2-ent MeWe: https://mewe.com/i/chriswachter

4 thoughts on “For the Love of Words Part 2”

  1. The English language has so many facets it’s fascinating and maddening all at the same time. There’s always the exception to the rule. I credit my love of reading for teaching me to use it properly. Thank heavens for books!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this Chris and you pointed out many of my mistakes over the years and some I have gotten better at — or, well, want to get better at. Ha! I love when people can write and speak so easily about grammar. I have been a writer for years but I still can’t fluently explain grammar terms and rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As long as no one expects me to be perfect. Though I try my best (and try to help other writers be better as well), not one of my books has been published error free. And, being human, I continue to make mistakes. Perhaps, someday, I will go back, read through, and update all of them. But even then, I’m certain readers will find and point out other errors. I think it’s just the nature of the beast. **Note: I used the Oxford comma here. I think at some point I’ll do a blog post about the importance of the Oxford comma. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

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