Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grammar Time! (can't touch this!)

Today I want to take a look at the lovely words of the English language. They are oh so confusing, aren't they? How many of us struggle with word choice while writing? Show of hands? Hmm, all of you. No surprise there!

Is it farther or further? Who or whom? Lay or lie? Affect or effect?
I'll tell you what it is... it's MADNESS!

With the help of Grammar Girl from Quick and Dirty Tips, we will learn how to use them properly!

Farther vs Further

FARther - refers to physical distance. It even has FAR in the word!
Further - refers to literal distance. Synonyms: moreover, in addition to

Who vs Whom

First, let's go over subject and object of a clause because it's been a darn long time since I was in school. Remember that a SUBJECT is the person DOING something, while the OBJECT is having something done TO them.

ex. I punched Moron in the nose.

I am the subject because I punched, and Moron is the unfortunate object because he GOT punched.

Who - use when you refer to the subject of a clause
ex. Who punched Moron?

Whom - use when you refer to the object of a clause
ex. Whom did you punch?

Lay vs Lie

Grammar girl has a fun way to remember this one in the present tense. Remember that Eric Clapton song, Lay Down Sally? Well... he's basically singing that someone should physically pick sally up and LAY her down. Yep. Should have said, Lie Down Sally.
You LAY something down, and people LIE down by themselves.

Past tense, well... here's a chart from Grammar Girl.

And here are the conjugations in sentences, directly from the G.G.

The past tense of lie is lay, so

Last week, Steve lay down on the floor.
The cat lay in the mud after it rained yesterday.

The past tense of lay is laid, so

Last week, I laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary forcefully laid her ring on the table.

The past participle of lie is lain, so

Steve has lain on the floor for days.
The cat has lain in the mud for hours.

The past participle of lay is laid, so

I have laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary has forcefully laid her ring on the table.

Affect vs Effect

No matter HOW many times I look these up and think I've figured it out... I look them up again.

Affect - to influence. Often used as a verb

Effect - a result. Often used as a noun.

Here's a cute little diagram, also from the G.G.

These were just a few of my common chin-scratchers. Hopefully some of my other grammatically challenged friends can benefit and finally commit the rules to memory!

Check out the Grammar Girl's website for even more great tips!


  1. Lie, lay, laid, gets me every single time! Thanks for the link. I'm going to print that out and hang it on my wall.

  2. I agree, great post. And the lie, lay, laid gets me every time too. LOL. I guess I'm with Moron up there... haha... good sentence, by the way!!!

  3. Kristin,

    These are such simple mistakes, but also so EASY to make! What a great a post! These are all great grammar tips for writers starting out, because you don't know until you know!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  4. So confusing. It took me forever to learn these when I first got into writing. I'm still learning.

  5. I've tried learning them so many times before, but every single time, I need to look up lie vs lay. *bookmarking for easy reference in the future*

  6. The teacher in me is so in love with you right now. :)

  7. Those L words. Can't they come up with a simpler solution? Great tips!

  8. I love this!!! Grammar is amazing and difficult, but oh so fun! Thanks for the awesome tips!

  9. Agent Nathan Bransford has a post up right now about malapropisms and homonym errors. Read the comments!

  10. these tips were great, now the task in actually remembering them! & i thoroughly enjoyed the sentence about the moron... there is just something about that word. lol

  11. Useful post, Kristin! I wonder if anyone uses "lain" in the spoken language. I love the poster.

  12. OMG - the Lay vs Lie chart is a LIFESAVER for me!
    Thank you so much!

    i like naseous vs nauseated - if you feel sick you should say nauseated, because if you say naseous it means you make others sick. I chuckle every time i hear someone misues it

  13. Ok, so I will now have to reference this post when in question!!!! Thank you for giving us a handy dandy reference...I especially love the cartoon.

  14. ugh, I've taught this a million times to school kids and other of my students :)

  15. A helpful, yet entertaining post. I especially like the aardvark reference

  16. I love Grammar Girl, too.

    Lay/lie always make me pause and think when I'm writing. LOL

  17. I have used grammar girl on a few occasions myself. ;)