I was writing just now and then I stopped myself in the simplest possible sentence, staring at my screen as though the English language I’m so familiar with had suddenly turned to Greek. This was the sentence:
Eleanor shrugged and lay down on the wooden floor of the little wooden house staring at the straw roof above with a sleepy, yet thoughtful, expression.
What’s the difficulty there, you ask? Well it’s fixed now (at least I hope), but initially I was in doubt of what to use and took a guess. It was a wrong guess. I initially wrote “Eleanor shrugged and laid down…”. As you lovely people might know better than me, to say that a person ‘laid down’ is very much incorrect. MS Word corrected me, but I was of course a bit annoyed that after all this time writing in English there are some things that won’t come to me as naturally as they should. I’m always in doubt on whether to use certain words in certain scenarios and having to rely on spell/grammar check to bail me out.
So I did what I usually do in these situations and bitched about it to my wife. lol
Sarah sent me a helpful link that explained matters to me. To put it simply, you use ‘lie’ for people and ‘lay’ for objects. That sounds pretty damn simple. Then I’m like okay, so I want the past tense of ‘lie’ for this sentence, which is… Lay…
So the correct past tense of ‘lie’ is ‘lay’ and the correct past tense of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’ and now I need aspirin. =_=
I know that a lot of native English speakers also get these things mixed up, and if you’re one of these people then think about your confusion and multiply it by 200. That’s what happens in my brain when I stop mid-sentence to try and figure out these things.
I don’t play the ‘English is my second language’ card too often because I also know that I write better than many native writers out there. You all know I’m not an arrogant person, but I can’t deny that fact if I try. It’d be dishonest of me to try and use my nationality to excuse my errors. My difficulty is more due to the fact that I need to think in English when I write in English and if something takes away my focus, words suddenly become difficult.
At lot of words in English sound the same as words in Portuguese that have entirely different meanings. In fact, if you visit my country and utter the words ‘pay day’ you’ll sound as if you’re saying ‘peidei’ which means that you’re announcing to those around you that you just… passed gas. Yep. If you ever visit Brazil now you know to avoid those two little words unless you want to rouse a bit of laughter. 😛
Another case is “push” which sounds like the Portuguese word “puxe” which actually means “pull” and I will here admit that once I was ‘stuck’ trying to exit a bank because I read the word ‘puxe’ as ‘push’ and was pushing on the door instead of pulling it open. Yep. I’ve not lived that incident down yet. It was written in big red letters right in front of my face after all.
Back to not knowing what words to use though… ‘Worse’ vs, ‘worst’ as exemplified in the title is another I have difficulty getting right without stopping to think about it. And on creative mode I don’t want to stop and think, especially if I’m on a particularly good roll. I’ve read and reread the grammar rule that says ‘worse’ is the comparative form of ‘bad’ while ‘worst’ is the superlative form of ‘bad’. That means that worse is used when something is ‘more bad’ than another specific something: “The heat today is worse than yesterday.” while ‘worst’ is used when something is the ‘baddest’ above all other things: “I know right! Summer is the worst!”. Hence ‘worst’ would be the correct word for my title there. I know this now with plenty of thinking time, but in the middle of a paragraph, what I know and what my brain tells me is right often differ. Greatly.
In the case with lie/lay/laid… Its hard to automatically make the connection that the past of the word ‘lie’ is lay, when at the same time it’s also lied… So to me, even though I know and I just wrote about it, I look at ‘lay’ in that sentence and it looks wrong. I know it’s not, but it does. How sick is that? ^.-
How much can we judge a writer for ‘simple mistakes’ like this when what we know is right often doesn’t feel right? It’s easy for someone to come about a post like this on the internet and put that annoying little asterisk on the comment section and correct something we were so sure was right while writing and only then realize was a pretty stupid mistake. If you’ve done that, correcting someone, don’t feel bad for it; I understand the urge. Sometimes I read something and all I have to say about it later is *YOU’RE. Especially if the mistake in in the title of an article. It makes me twitchy. Which is why it makes me feel really stupid when I’m the one to make the mistake.
If I can see these things while reading someone else’s writing, then I clearly know right from wrong. So why the heck can’t I ever get this shit right!? >.<