Helpful Grammatical Hints: Lay vs. Lie

Okay y’all. The grammar police have returned with a vengeance and here we are for another lesson on Sarah’s Pet Peeves.

This one is particularly frustrating for me, mostly because we use these words so often in our daily conversations, and because there is hardly anybody in the world who uses them correctly.

Let’s start with the basics: “lay” and “lie” are different words, and I’m not just talking about the “lie” that refers to not telling the truth. They are both words that can describe a noun (that’s a person, place, thing, or idea) at rest.

First, let’s discuss the word “lay,” as that seems to be the more widely misused of the two words we’re addressing. I am referring to the abomination that occurs when someone announces that he is going to “go lay down.” This, my friends, is incorrect.

The verb “to lay” is a verb that requires a direct object. A direct object is the thing to which the verb is done. To clarify, “to lay” is like the word “to buy” – you cannot simply say “I’m going to buy.” You must buy something – the direct object. The direct object of the sentence “I’m going to buy a shovel” is the shovel. Thus, the verb “lay” should be used in contexts when a person lays something down to rest (“I’m going to lay this book down on the table”) or when a hen lays an egg. The only time it is appropriate to use this word in the context of a person resting is in a situation like we encounter in the child’s prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep.” This is appropriate because the child is laying something – himself – down to rest.

The word “lie,” by contrast, is hardly ever misused; instead, people choose to not acknowledge its existence at all and to use the word “lay” in its place. Please do not ignore this word; it is extremely useful. “I’m going to go lie down” is a grammatically perfect statement. Use it as often as you’d like.

The tricky part about these words is using them in the past tense. In the past tense, the word “lie” becomes “lay.” In the past perfect, it becomes “lain.”

The book lies untouched on the counter.
She is lying down right now. [present perfect/progressive]
Tomorrow I will lie down.
Yesterday I lay down. [past preterite]
I have lain down already. [past perfect]

The past tense of the word “lay,” (remember, for this we need a direct object) is “laid” – this does not change in the past perfect.

Now I lay the baby down for a nap.
I am laying my clothes out for tomorrow. [present perfect/progressive]
I will lay the utensils out on the counter.
I laid it right here! [past preterite]
I have laid down a payment already.

Now, I bet you are really confused. Let’s recap to clarify.

lie, lay, lain: something (you, an animal, an object, etc) is at rest
lay, laid, laid: you or someone else puts something to rest, or puts it down

I know this is a tough one, but I hope that – if nothing else – I frightened you enough to at least think twice every time you hear, or want to say, these words.


Tips for Counting Your Blessings: Where did you glean today?

The pastor at my church is currently taking the congregation through the book of Ruth, and we recently covered the section that contains the verse, “Her mother-in-law asked her, ‘Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blesssed be the man who took notice of you!” (Ruth 2:19) Those of you familiar with the book of Ruth probably remember this verse as the moment when Ruth brings home an abundance of barley after a day of gleaning from the what the harvesters left behind in Boaz’s field.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ruth, it’s valuable to note the context of the situation here. Ruth was the Moabite daughter-in-law of a woman named Naomi (whose name meant “Pleasant,” but who had begun to call herself Mara, meaning “bitter” because her husband and sons died and she felt that God dealt bitterly with her). (Ruth 1:3-5; 1:20-22) One of Naomi’s sons was married to Ruth in Moab. Instead of staying with her people in Moab and finding another husband after she became a widow, Ruth followed Naomi back to her home in Bethlehem where she could be devoted to Jehovah God.

The heart of the matter is this: Naomi followed the God of the Israelites from the time she was born; Ruth converted to the Israelite tradition when she married Naomi’s son. But while hardship and bitterness led Naomi to blame God for her problems, saying “The Almighty has made my life very bitter” and “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me”, Ruth only asked that she be allowed to return with Naomi to Bethlehem in service to God. (Ruth 1:20-21; 1:16) Even in a time of hardship, Ruth did not turn her back on the Lord. Instead, she followed His commandments and worked patiently to care for herself and her mother-in-law.

When Ruth returned home from gleaning in Boaz’s field and had, literally, gallons of extra food, and Naomi asked “Where did you glean today?” there was only one acceptable answer. Ruth gleaned in the Field of Faith, where “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 13:12)

I’m sure you are all familiar with the phrase “You reap what you sow.” It comes from the book of Galatians: “7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) It is shocking to me, though, how many people use these verses only as ominous forebodings and never as encouragement; yes, the verse does say that some will reap destruction, but that does not mean we should ignore the second half of the verse: “the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Our heavenly Father made a promise to us the day that His son died on the cross. It is an unbreakable covenant that guarantees us eternal salvation and freedom from sin. But we cannot find joy in these things if we are looking in the wrong places.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:9)

Christ died to bring us forgiveness, certainly, but also so that He would have the authority to be master of the living and the dead (and that’s everyone)! For “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Are you acknowledging Christ as the Lord of your life? Are you a slave to Him, submissive to the One who saved you? Are you reaping joy, blessings, and abundance from the faith you have sown into your relationship with Jesus Christ?

. . .Or are you wanting?

If you are unhappy, angry with the Lord, or suffering feelings of bitterness and resentment toward Him, I challenge you: ask yourself, “Where did I glean today?” If you gleaned from a field into which you have sown self-serving ideas about what you want for your life instead of trust in the One who made you, is it any wonder you are not harvesting that which He promised you?

I am a firm believer that it is our outlook, not our circumstances, that determines what joy we take from life. If I am dissatisfied, it is because I am not fully trusting God to provide all that I need, and am questioning whether or not His grace is truly sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) If I am blessed, it is not due to the absence of sorrow or pain in my life, but because I devote myself to my God, and know that if He sacrificed His son for me, He would not ask me to endure unnecessary pain. I know from my daily communion with Him that He loves me, and teaches me obedience through my sufferings. (Hebrews 5:8)

But I know it can be difficult to see God’s mercy and grace through troubled times. And sometimes, scripture verses and uplifting comments from friends make you feel more jealous than encouraged. That is why, I present:

Five Practical Ways to Count Your Blessings

  1. Actually do it. Count them. The best way, in my opinion, to accomplish this is to keep a daily journal. Add a few extra minutes to your quiet time or just make a list before you go to sleep of all the ways in which the Lord blessed you that day. Read it when you’re feeling depressed or sorry for yourself.
  2. Write a letter to the person, place, thing, or idea that is causing you pain. Tell him/her/it why you are angry. Be as hurtful as you feel like being. Burn it.
  3. Pray honestly. Tell the Lord that you are angry, hurt, and that you don’t understand why you are afflicted with your circumstances. Then pray that He will help you to see the path He has laid out for you, and that He will soften your heart toward those who are trying to help you.
  4. Become a servant to others around you who are hurting. If you look for them, you will find other people suffering around you who you may not have noticed because your eyes were focused on yourself.
  5. Read Matthew 27:27-66. Compare your sufferings to those of Christ. Remember that they were for you.

Helpful Linguistic Hints: Cavalry vs. Calvary

I’ve decided to share my gift with all of you.

When I was a little girl, my parents put me in a private school. In private school, at the age of eight, I learned how to differentiate between the parts of speech, how to diagram sentences, and the absolutely pertinent information that “one persuades to, and convinces that.”

The consequence of all this is that I have a pitiful obsession with grammar. Tragically, this consumes my life. But lucky for you, this means receiving helpful (if unwelcome) linguistic hints every time I get feverish over a typo.

This week’s topic: Cavalry vs. Calvary

Calvary, for those who don’t know, is the hill atop which Christ was crucified. You can read about it on handy-dandy wiki here. (Those of you familiar with the movie “Dogma” may know it by another name.)

Cavalry are infantrymen in state militias. The great Mel Gibson, for instance, headed up the cavalry in “The Patriot”; the smash hit blockbuster “We Were Soldiers” was also all about cavalrymen.

Henceforward, please make a distinction between the two. If I have to watch one more documentary on the History channel on which learned “historians” discuss the way that the calvary charged in and won a battle, I will have to quit the English language altogether.

Thank you.

P.S. – The word “definitely” does not have an “a” in it anywhere.