There are so many misused words in our crazy language. This pair is one of the most confusing because the past tense of one is the same as the present tense of the other. ⇒ ⇒
Lay vs. Lie
Lay means “to place something down.” It is something you do to something else.
Incorrect: Lie the coat on the chair.
Correct: Lay the coat on the chair.
(It is being done to something else.)
Lie means “to recline” or “be placed.” It does NOT act on anything or anyone else.
Incorrect: Lay down on the hammock.
Correct: Lie down on the hammock.
(It is not being done to anything else.)
But . . . the real reason lay and lie are confusing is their past tenses:
The past tense of lay is laid. (remember, to lay is to put something else down)
The past tense of lie is lay. (remember, to lie is to recline yourself) THIS IS THE CONFUSING PART!!
Incorrect: I lay the box down here yesterday.
Correct: I laid the box down here yesterday.
(It is being done to something else.)
Incorrect: Last night I couldn’t sleep and laid awake in bed.
Correct: Last night I couldn’t sleep and lay awake in bed.
(It is not being done to anything else.)
And to add to the confusion . . . We use the past participle of verbs when we are indicating a timeline during which no specific date is given.
The past participle of lie is lain.
The past participle of lay is like the past tense, laid.
Correct: On Sunday, I could have lain in bed all day. (indicating the action, in this case lying in bed, will be complete at some point in the future, but you don’t know when) I KNOW THIS SOUNDS WEIRD . . . I MEAN, WHO TALKS LIKE THIS, RIGHT?! WE SHOULD BECAUSE IT’S CORRECT!!
Correct: They have laid an average of 500 feet of sandbags a day. (indicating the action, in this case laying sandbags, was finished at some point each day)
BTW . . . Layed is a misspelling and does not exist. Use laid!!
I previously posted about using advisor vs. adviser, but I neglected to share the tricky difference between advice vs. advise.
Advice vs. Advise
advice = an opinion about how to solve a problem; guidance (noun)
advise = to offer advice; to counsel (verb) pronounced advize
Please give me some advice about what to do.
Please advise me about what to do. (The act of advising is an action or verb.)
“Like” must be one of the most abused words in the English language. Like, what’s up with, like, the overuse of, like, the word “like.” Like, I don’t understand how, like, people are actually, like, communicating with as many uses of the word “like.” Like, the most used word in, like, most high schools in America is “like.” Whoa, I can’t do that anymore.
I don’t know how that use of “like” actually started but I’ve been on a personal crusade to alleviate it for quite some time. I assign a speech early on during the year in which I deduct a point each time “like” is used out of proper context. Sadly, two out of 22 students earned an A on that speech this year. Beside this annoying misuse, “like” is often confused with “as” when making a comparison. This may be easier to correct. Let’s try:
Like vs. As
Like is a preposition used for making comparisons. (Like can also be a verb, noun, adjective, or adverb; but, GG is concentrating on comparisons here.) Like must be followed by a noun or pronoun:
Roman looks like my dog. My dog looks like him.
As is a conjunction. As is followed by a verb:
Taylor does as her friend says. Do as I say, and as I do.
When you are uncertain whether to use like or as, look for a verb. If a verb follows, you’ll know as is the word to use:
Every day the child acts more like her father. (no verb) He acts as if he saw a ghost. (verb = saw)
**Tricky point ~ In comparisons, the verb may sometimes be left out to avoid wordiness. In that case, you need to pretend it’s there:
Linda loves the city as much as I. (the verb, do, is left out)
A student came up to me after class and asked if irregardless was a word. This prompted GG’s latest mini-lesson:
Irregardless vs. Regardless
To answer my student’s question, irregardless is not a word. It is a double negative, combining the words regardless and irrespective. Yes, there can be double negatives in English as well as mathematics. Let’s take a closer look: Regardless means despite something or without regard. If we say irregardless, we are literally saying without without regard. This does not make sense!
Here’s an example of the correct usage of regardless:
Regardless of the obstacles, he persevered and overcame his hardships.
Here is another pair of words many of us interchange incorrectly.
Between vs. Among
Use between when you refer to to people, places, or things.
Example: Kimm had to choose between going on a cruise and catching three Broadway shows.
Use among when you refer to three or more people, places, or things.
Example: The gold treasure was divided among the crew of the pirate ship.
Adviser or Advisor???
AP style tells us to use adviser rather than advisor but it does not indicate why. I am interested in learning the reason. Perhaps it has to do with the etymology of the word.
Maybe because the root verb (“advise”) ends in the letter E, the -er suffix is preferred to the -or suffix. An analogous case is the verb organize, which becomes organizer (and clearly not “organizor”).
Dictionaries say these words are synonymous. Neither seem technically incorrect or correct.
What do you think? Comment back – do you use advisor or adviser?
Being hopeful is a good thing. It is always better to see the glass half full than half empty. Overusing the word hopefully, on the other hand, is not such a good thing.
Hope vs. Hopefully
The word hopefully is an adverb. An adverb is a word that describes a verb, so hopefully is a word that describes how something is done. Polly Pocket skipped hopefully down the grassy path means that Polly Pocket skipped in a hopeful manner down the path; it describes the way in which she skipped. It’s an active process; in other words, it’s something that we can control.
The adverb hopefully, then, should not be used synonymously with the phrase I hope since hope means a wish or a desire. Hopefully, he will win the race is incorrect. I hope he wins the race is the correct way to phrase that. When we hope, the outcome is out of our control. In other words, it’s a very passive act, and using hopefully for I hope is a grammar error. And why would we want to be passive and incorrect at the same time?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with hoping; however, we always have more success when we actively pursue things than we do when we wish for the best. So GG’s advice is to be active and decide to use these words correctly. 🙂
A follower just asked me if “yous guys” is proper English. This is a great question, considering the amount of colloquial language thrown around carelessly every day. As the school year creeps upon us, now is the perfect time to clean up our communication skills.
You Guys vs. Yous Guys
Let’s set the record straight away: Yous guys is improper English. Do not say it, do not write it, and do not even think it. The extra ‘s’ is mistakingly added by those who believe there is a plural form of ‘you.’ Unlike numerous other languages, English does not have a plural form of you. (Incidentally, this is the same mistake made when speaking the phrase ‘y’all.’ Again, there is no need to pluralize you with the word ‘all.’ ‘You’ is the pronoun that refers to one person or to a number of people. The form never changes.) If you must use this colloquial phrase, use you guys.
Grading Girl actually doesn’t like to use the phrase at all. It sounds colloquial and lowers the speaking level. You guys is commonly used to address multiple people at once. The person speaking the phrase is often angry and upset. The individual often does not know whom or where to direct his/her anger or lecture so the individual directs it at an often innocent, larger audience. This is commonly heard in the workplace where one tries to curtail his/her frustrations while maintaining anonymity.
GG’s bottom line: Try to avoid you guys because of its colloquial connotation but never use yous guys because of its improper form of you.
Thank you to my follower, Lori Lewis, for the question. Keep the grammar questions coming, GG readers. I post a mini-lesson every Tuesday for TeacherTuesday on Twitter!
I could write 1,000 mini-lessons and still not cover all of the confusing words in the English language.
Worse vs. Worst
Worse is a comparative. Use it when comparing two things, just like better only in the negative instead of the positive. This means when comparing two things, one will always be “worse” and not “worst” than the other.
Example: Cardio is worse than strength training because it takes longer.
Worst is a superlative. Think of worst like best, only in the negative. When something is much more terrible than multiple items, it is the “worst” of them all.
Example: The worst idea is to attempt to lift heavy weights while balancing on a ball.
GG says there may be worst things you could do, but it is worse to not speak at all than to speak incorrectly.
A couple of months ago, my brother brought up the question as to the difference between healthy and healthful. I was on vacation visiting at the time and put it in the back of my mind to think about later. Writing my most recent post about my favorite snack made me recall that question. I’m always up for a healthful debate, so here goes:
Healthful vs. Healthy
According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, the word healthful means “beneficial to health of body or mind” or contributing to good health. Healthy means “enjoying the state of good health” or being free of disease.
If we go by these definitions, it makes sense that things are healthful and people are healthy. Right? That would mean that all those eat clean diets out there are not healthy. That would also mean that we can’t eat healthy. Before you go digging into that ice cream, know this. We can eat healthful diets. And, yes, we can engage in healthful eating. We will be more healthy because of it. As with many words in our English language, there’s a tricky little inconsistency to keep in mind: if we are describing food as free of disease, we can refer to it as healthy. Otherwise, food that is conducive to health is healthful food.
Some have written off the use of the word healthful as trendy; they say just use healthy instead. Why bother with this? I say why not use our words correctly?
GG’s examples to help you remember the difference:
I ate a healthy breakfast. (wrongo)
I ate a healthful breakfast. (correctomundo)
I look healthy today after eating breakfast. (okey dokey)
I can eat healthy fruits to keep me free from illness. (right on)
Those healthful protein bars look good to me. (yes sirree)
Confused yet? If so, you’re in good company. I’ve seen these two words used interchangeably all the time. In GG’s opinion, though, it is unhealthful to mix the two.
It’s summer but that doesn’t mean Grading Girl doesn’t have time for a mini-lesson! I can’t help it . . . when I hear a grammar goof, my wheels start spinning. I was in a boutique the other day and couldn’t help but overhear a fellow patron in the next dressing room exclaim she was nauseous and needed the nearest bathroom. Apparently, she had a rough pre-4th celebration. Well, her demise is my opportunity – opportune moment for a mini-lesson, that is! There is a fine line between these two sick depictions. I know, I’ve made the same mistake but here’s the real deal, folks. You can now be grammatically correct even when you’re feeling the need for some sidewalk pizza. 😉
Are you nauseous or nauseated?
Nauseous is an adjective that means causing nausea; sickening; disgusting; sickening to contemplate
Nauseated is a verb that means to feel nausea; become sick; sick at the stomach
Do not, therefore, say “I feel nauseous” unless you are sure you have that ill effect on others! I don’t think the dressing room girl made everyone else around her feel sick – she felt sick from something she did or ate; therefore, she was nauseated.
An example from the brilliant Dr. Seuss:
You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseous super-naus.
taken from the lyrics of “Mr. Grinch”
“That leftover salmon dish is so nauseous that I don’t even want to walk near the kitchen.” (used as an adjective . . . in this case, the salmon dish does have the ill effect on others)
“It nauseates me to look at that disgusting picture.” (used as a verb . . . the picture makes me feel nausea)
We sometimes hear people say “Oh, that was funner” and it’s like the world stops. Somewhere in the world, someone starts scratching her nails on a blackboard. But wait a minute! Why CAN’T you say “funner?” I doubt many people know WHY they can’t say it. All they know is that it’s a no-no. So Grading Girl would like to discuss why “funner” isn’t a word.
What is “fun?”
Well, I think dancing is fun. I think working out is fun. Ohhhhhhhhh, you want to know about the WORD fun. Ok, let’s do it. Fun has generally been considered a noun in the past – meaning it’s a person, place, thing, or idea. A noun can’t have superlative forms. For example, you wouldn’t say that “The white dog is dogger than the black one.” Dog is a noun. It cannot be more or less than “dog.”
Due to our ever-evolving English language, however, (see my essay on our crazy English language, Do Fingers Fing?)it has now become an adjective. Most one-syllable adjectives we can add an er or est to, such as “hotter/hottest.” Yet in this case, we still hold on the to notion of its “noun” usage, and say “more fun” or the “most fun.” Even though it’s still in debate if we can say “funner,” I’m sure you’ve heard someone say “funnest” and haven’t cringed. The extreme superlative seems to be more common and accepted than the middle one.
Although the words are in most dictionaries, it is still not considered “proper” to say funner or funnest. Perhaps over time it will become accepted, but until then Grading Girl suggests saying “more” or “most” “fun.” It sounds better!
I am notorious for finding easy tricks to remember a grueling grammar rule. I hear this grammar goof ALL the time.
When to Use We or Us
It can be tricky but there is an easy way to decide whether to use we or us in sentences that contain statements such as “we bloggers” or “us girls.”
Simply remove the noun from the sentence and decide which pronoun would be used on its own.
We bloggers were introduced first at the conference.
(“We were introduced first at the conference” is correct whereas “Us were introduced at the conference” is incorrect.)
That movie didn’t frighten us girls at all.
(“That movie didn’t frighten us at all” is correct whereas “That movie didn’t frighten we at all” is incorrect.)