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Astute readers lay out the rules for lie-lay

Grammarians may have noticed a misused verb in the first sentence of a story Monday about the Captain John S. Pope Farm in northern Orange County:

“Thomas Crisp Jr. stood at the edge of a wire fence Friday morning in northern Orange County, two bales of hay laying at his feet.”

Two readers took the time to email me about the error - using "laying" instead of "lying" - that was edited into the story late Sunday.

“Kindly assist in teaching by example the uses of lie-lay,” reader Wendy Smith wrote in an email.

For the record: The verb “lay” and its derivatives – laid and laying – require an active voice and a direct object (a person, place or thing). For example, “she laid the bales of hay at his feet.”

However, the verb “lie” and its derivatives – lay, lain, lying – take an indirect object: “The bales of hay were lying at his feet.”

As a former copy editor, I know how easy it is to make mistakes when you’re pressed for time. We stand corrected.

A dog who knows grammar

A wonderful headline ("Sit. Stay. Parse. Good girl!") attracted me to this New York Times story about a border collie who knows more than 1,000 nouns and appears to understand verbs. It mentions a Nova episode about dogs' intelligence.

Grammar Guide quiz -- Verbs are the subject


I found a quiz that I wrote a while ago but apparently hadn't posted. All five sentences deal with making the correct verb choice.

Click here or on the question mark icon to begin.

You can also take this holiday-theme quiz from 2008.

And click on this link to find links to more past quizzes. (I think they all work, but if you encounter any weirdness, send me a note. Thanks.)

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