Posts Tagged ‘verb form’

Do you confuse LIE and LAY? Here’s a simple solution.

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

I am about to finish a great first novel by Pauline Livers. Titled Cementville (Counterpoint Press) and set in rural Kentucky during the Vietnam War, it tells the story of a town that loses seven young National Guard soldiers in one brutal overseas attack. There is much more to it, but that is where the story begins.

I love the writing and the characterization, but I keep coming across sentences using LAY where LIE would be correct. Here are two examples:

from page 72: "…she lays staring at the brown stains in the ceiling, raggedy islands in a dirty sea."

from page 98: "They lay by the water on a soft bed of storm-tossed leaves,…"

Whoops! Both of these sentences are in the present tense, which means that a form of LIE is the correct choice. Here is why: LIE is an intransitive verb describing the act of reclining. It does not take an object. LAY is a transitive verb describing the act of putting or placing something. It does take an object (the thing being put or placed.)

Here is how these two sentences should read: 

from page 72: "…she lies staring at the brown stains in the ceiling, raggedy islands in a dirty sea."

from page 98: "They lie by the water on a soft bed of storm-tossed leaves,…"

 

NOTE: For another example of how to use LIE and LAY correctly, please see my most recent Facebook post on the Grammar Glitch Central page. (December 28, 2014)

Cementville

Please do not let these minor corrections keep you from seeking out and reading this excellent novel. If you like southern fiction that calls to mind writers like William Faulkner or Ron Rash, you will find Cementville to be a good read.

 


Verb Tense Matters and Affects Meaning

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Choosing the correct tense and form for a verb is important for clear writing. An incorrect choice can often lead to a distortion of meaning, as in this example sentence from the Sports section of The Birmingham News:

She has been an Alabama fan her entire life and had a brother, Chris, who played as a member of the 2009 and 2011 national championship teams.

The present perfect verb form HAS BEEN tells the reader that SHE (the subject of the sentence) is alive and well in the present and is still an Alabama fan. However, the past tense verb form HAD, in reference to her brother, makes it sound as if her brother has passed away.  To say SHE HAD A BROTHER suggests that the brother is no longer alive, which is not the case.

Here is another sentence with a verb form problem. It is from the same issue of the newspaper:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can led to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 LED is the past tense of the verb LEAD, as in "Alabama LED for the entire first quarter." It is also the past participle, which is used with helping verbs like HAS and HAVE, as in "Notre Dame HAS LED in the ratings." However, when the helping verb CAN is used, the present tense form is needed. Therefore, this sentence should read as follows:

For the past three years, "Trading Christmas"–based on the best-selling Debbie Macomber novel about how house swapping can lead to romance–has been the most-watched movie on Hallmark, whose audience is 55 percent female.

 

Here is one final verb problem, also from the same issue of the newspaper:

Turnovers also be the key and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

I have no problem with sports writing being a bit more casual with the rules. A "slangy" style works, to some extent. However, I do think using BE as the present tense verb goes too far. This is unacceptable usage and makes the writer sound far less than professional. The verb to go with TURNOVERS should be ARE because TURNOVERS is plural. The sentence should read this way:

Turnovers are also the key, and the team that makes the bigger plays on special teams, as always, should take the victory.

 

NOTE: Being a diehard Buckeye and an Auburn fan, I don't have a sure favorite in tonight's BCS championship game. May the truly best team win!


Sloppy proofreading detracts from company image

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New YearFirst, I'd like to wish all of my Grammar Glitch Central readers a Happy New Year. May your writing be error-free and easy to read in 2013. Many thanks to those who have taken time to comment during 2012. Your observations and questions always add value to this blog.

 

Today's Grammar Glitch point involves an advertisement for a spa and hot tub company that contains several glaring errors. Simple proofreading should have caught these and kept them from downgrading the company's public image.

 

GRammar Glitch on spas

 Unfortunately, the first error occurs glaringly in large print. The city name should be BIRMINGHAM, ending in M, not N.

The second error is at the beginning of the final sentence. OVER 20-MODELS ON DISPLAY is poorly worded and punctuated. There should not be a hyphen between 20 and MODELS. The number 20 simply modifies the word MODELS. Perhaps space was the issue here, but the phrase MORE THAN works much better than OVER here.

The third error is a verb form error. CHOSE is the past tense verb, but the buyer would CHOOSE in the present. Also, I believe the word FROM is missing here.  The buyer is not choosing 4 colors or 8 acylic colors. The buyer is choosing FROM among those options.

Here is my edited version of that last sentence:

More than 20 models on display. Choose from 4 different cabinet colors and 8 different acrylic colors.

 

 


Maybe? Or may be? That is the question.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Spam subject lines often contain grammar errors, and recognizing that can be a good way to spot bogus emails that should be trashed. Here is a good example that appeared in my Inbox last week:

 

Remove errors that maybe harming your PC

 The single word MAYBE is an adverb that means the same thing as PERHAPS. It would be used in a sentence like this: MAYBE this is an email I should not open.

 

What this Spam creator should have used is the two verbs MAY and BE, which are separate words. His subject line should have read:

 

Remove errors that may be harming your PC

 

  Apparently I am not the only person who recognizes this problem. Please go to www.maybe.com to see a long list of examples, using MAYBE and MAY BE correctly.  I don't know who put this together, but I must say: GOOD JOB!  

 

 

 

 


Is it TAKEOVER or TAKE OVER? The answer depends on your meaning.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Good writers recognize the difference between words that should be written as verb and adverb (separately) and compound nouns or adjectives created from those separate words.  Examples include SET UP and SETUP, FOLLOW UP and FOLLOWUP, BREAK THROUGH and BREAKTHROUGH, PAY OFF and PAYOFF.

Here is another one that appeared incorrectly as part of a headline in this morning's Birmingham News.

State superintendent emphasizes action is to probe, not takeover

 

 TO PROBE is an infinitive created by putting TO in front of the present tense form of the verb.  The second verb should be TAKE followed by the separate adverb OVER. For good parallel structure, TO should also be part of what comes after NOT.  The headline should read this way: 

State superintendent emphasizes action is to probe, not to take over

 

 

 I hope Birmingham Board of Education members can put aside their personal agendas and work with Alabama's new state superintendent to improve the climate for education in our state's largest city. The children of Birmingham deserve that.

 


PAY OFF? or PAYOFF? Major lender forgets the difference.

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Like many homeowners these days, we've been looking at mortgage rates and trying to decide whether to leave things as they are or tweak them while the rates are low.  In the course of that process, I reread the fine print on the monthly statement we receive for our mortgage payment and came across this statement:

NOTE: The ending balance is probably not the same as the amount to payoff your loan. For payoff information, you may use our 24-hour automated information system at ….

Whoops! When PAY OFF is a verb form, it is written as two separate words.  The first usage on my bank statement is an infinitive (TO + verb form), so it should be written TO PAY OFF.

 When PAYOFF is used as a noun or an adjective form, it is written as one word.  That is the case in the second usage in this statement, where PAYOFF (adjective form) describes the kind of information.  This statement should be written as follows:

NOTE: The ending balance is probably not the same as the amount to pay off your loan. For payoff information, you may use our 24-hour automated information system at ….

This may not seem like a glaring error, but it is an error and reflects poorly on the professionalism of the bank.

 

 

  


Agreement Glitches Mar Two Photo Captions in One Issue!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

First off, congratulations to the Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham for being named one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2011 by the American Planning Association.  I used to live in that area and still love to walk there and visit the theaters and restaurants.

Unfortunately, the caption under one of the photographs with the article in The Birmingham News is not as great as the neighborhood.  Take a look:

Easy access to public open spaces are among the benefits of living in Highland Park, named today as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2011.

Whoops #1:  The subject of this sentence is the word ACCESS, which is singular.  Therefore, the verb should be IS not ARE.  (Easy access is one benefit among many.) It should read this way:

Easy access to public open spaces is among the benefits of living in Highland Park, named today as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2011.

More good news for Birmingham followed a few pages later with an article about the newly redesigned Red Mountain Cabaret Theater space. However, the grammar in this caption is not any better than in the Highland Park caption.  Take a look at this sentence:

The newly redesigned Red Mountain Cabaret theater space now includes new theater seats that increases the venue's capacity to 260.

 

Whoops #2: The SEATS (plural) are what INCREASES (singular) the seating capacity of the theater.  INCREASES should be changed to INCREASE (plural) to go with SEATS.  The sentence should read this way:

The newly redesigned Red Mountain Cabaret theater space now includes new theater seats that increase the venue's capacity to 260.

 

 

 

 

 

        


They had came? Whoops!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

An article about an unsung hero in a recent issue of The Huntsville Times included this sentence:

When the children were on their way, L. quietly went back to where he'd parked, turned around and took his family back the way they'd came.

Whoops! The word THEY'D is a contraction of THEY and HAD.  When a writer uses the helping verb HAD, that writer must also choose the past participle of the verb (COME), not the past tense form (CAME). The sentence should read this way:

When the children were on their way, L. quietly went back to where he'd parked, turned around and took his family back the way they'd come.


Blogger needs ADVICE on how to ADVISE about writing a novel.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Linkedin has an interesting feature where authors can post links to their blogs about writing.  Here is a sentence I came across on one of those posts this week:

I don't give tips (God knows I'm too ornery but not petulant enough to think I can advice anyone about anything), I don't review books or ask anyone to review mine;…

Whoops! ADVICE is a noun, not a verb, as in "I don't give anyone ADVICE (noun) about anything," or "Please give me some ADVICE (noun) about how to get published."

 This writer wants the verb ADVISE in his sentence, as in "Could you ADVISE (verb) me about getting published?" His sentence should read this way:

I don't give tips (God knows I'm too ornery but not petulant enough to think I can advise anyone about anything), I don't review books or ask anyone to review mine;…


IF clauses and VERB choices

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

It can be tricky to choose the correct verbs when an IF clause is involved.  Take a look at this sentence that appeared in a recent article about the possibility of shutting down Birmingham's Cooper Green Hospital:

If the hospital shut down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

 The writer of this sentence needed to decide whether the IF part of the sentence was supposed to describe something factual (IF the  hospital SHUTS down….) or a more hypothetical situation (IF the hospital SHUT down….) The verbs in the next part of this sentence (either WILL or WOULD and ARE or WERE) depend on that decision.  There are two correct ways to word this sentence, but the parts are not interchangeable.  It should read one of these two ways:

If the hospital shuts down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

If the hospital (were to) shut down, he said, patients would avoid getting care until they were really sick.