Monday, April 16, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Irregular Verbs

Today, I'm tackling the subject of conjugating verbs. If you're like me, you write more properly than you speak. The problem is: we often hear things that aren't grammatically correct, and then translate them into our writing without realizing it.

Conjugating English verbs is fairly simple. Most verbs add -ed to for the past and past participle tense. Let's take the infinitive 'to play' as an example.
Now in sentences:
Today, I play.  ~  Yesterday, I played.  ~  In the past, I had played.

That was easy, right? Problems usually arise when dealing with the pesky verbs that don't follow the rules. Ex: Swim, swam, swum. Let's start with one that many peopleeven the fairly grammar-consciousoften get get wrong: properly conjugating the infinitive 'to drag.'

The present tense is 'drag.'
Ex: Drag that chair over there, would you?

The past tense is 'drug,' right? Nope. It's 'dragged.'
(And don't worry. I'm not laughing at you. I correct myself on this one all the time.)

Ex: I scowled at my roommate sitting with a Coke in his hand and his feet propped on the coffee table, but I dragged the chair where he wanted it anyway.

Are you freaking out and dreading combing through multiple manuscripts for this mistake? Don't. To fix, simply do a document search for the word 'drug,' then replace any you used to mean dragged  with 'dragged.'

Another verb can-o-worms is 'lie' versus 'lay.' Not only is the past tense of one the present tense of the other, but these verbs are not interchangeable. (For the sake of this lesson, we're going to exclude the 'lie' that means to be untruthful.) Here are the basic tenses of both.
Notice the verb 'lay' requires an object. That is the key to keeping them straight. You can lie down, but you can't lay down (present tense). To lay, you'd have to have something in your hand.

Examples for 'lie': Today, I lie down to take a nap. Yesterday, I lay down to take a nap. In the past, I had lain down to take a nap.

Now 'lay': Today, I lay the pen on the desk. Yesterday, I laid the pen on the desk. In the past, I had laid the pen on the desk.

Hope that helps. For a list of irregular verbs and their basic tenses, click here.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for the lie/lay chart... I'm going to save that one to my files. :)

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    1. I don't blame you. This is one irregular verb I verify with the rules nearly every time--just to make sure I'm getting it right. Thanks for visiting. :)

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  2. May God bless you, Melissa. I think you finally, clearly, explained this to my stubborn brain. I've never seen this chart & now it makes so much sense. LIke Pegg, I'm copying this into my personal files. Thanks so much. I'm so excited about this that I'll Tweet it!

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    1. Wow. Glad to be of help. And thanks for the tweet. ;)

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  3. Is it weird that when I read "conjugating verbs" my mind went to Spanish before English?

    Anyway, great post! That chart is perfect. I'll be sure to direct people here when I'm doing crits. :)

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    1. Ha! Yeah. Me, too. Hablar: Hablo, Hablas, Habla, Hablamous... Gracias & adios! :)

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  4. I do all right with irregular verbs. It's passed and past that cause me problems. :-)

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    1. Me, too. I actually typed 'past' for 'passed' the other day. When presented with the two, I know the difference. I just forgot there was another way to write the word. hahaha #BrainFart

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  5. I've always had trouble distinguishing between "lie" and "lay." Thanks for clearing it up and giving me a handy dandy chart to refer to when I inevitably get confused again. ;-)

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    1. Truth? I check the chart all the time. LOL Glad you found it helpful. :)

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  6. This is great stuff. I have things in my book with both lay and lie. Confusing stuff. My thing is what about who and whom? People don't know how to use those either.

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    1. Ooo. I needed a topic idea for next week, and you just gave me one. LOL Thanks! :D

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  7. If you're looking for topics... I always stumble between "which" and "that". ARGH! I hate that one! I have a permanent brain fart in that area.

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    1. I'll do that one the following week. Thanks so much, ladies! Seriously! My goal is to get a few of these scheduled ahead of time so I can spend some time writing. Now I can. You're my muse!!! :D

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  8. Good stuff. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Hi, Dicky. Glad you stopped by. :)

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