Thursday, 10 March 2011

Grammar Lesson

I suffer in every gym class when the teacher announces five times a lesson –“Let’s LAY on our backs...”   Grrrrr!  While I have the world’s sympathy for foreigners trying to understand the complexities of English grammar, if you are English born and bred you should learn the difference between the verbs: “to lie down” and “to lay SOMETHING down”, if only because those who have been taught correctly will think you ‘common’ if you don’t.  The first does not take a direct object and should be used thus, “ I am going to lie down now”  or Past Tense, “I lay down for a while yesterday”.  The confusion of course, is because  the past participle for this verb “lay”  is the same as the Present Tense of the other verb which must have an OBJECT.  The easiest two examples to remember are that you “lay an egg” or “lay the table to eat”. Egg and table are objects of the verb – something IS DONE to them.  Confusion is multiplied in South Africa where, because of the Afrikaans influence, people “set on” or “set off” tables.  Then there are old-fashioned  verses which we might have learnt as children viz. “Now I lay me down to sleep….”. This is actually correct as “me” is the object of the verb in this sentence. In modern English, the word should, strictly speaking be “myself”. I rather like the rest of this verse, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” which I found alternately comforting or scary when I was small. But I digress.  While I accept that all language is in a state of flux or we would still be talking as they did in the Middle Ages or, God forbid, in Anglo-Saxon times, must we not fight at all against the dropping of standards? Don’t get me started on the Apostrophe!  Just read “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss.  It’s the most entertaining grammar book ever written – all about the apostrophe,  and it was a best-seller!

Here endeth the lesson.  Sorry to be a bore. I am probably preaching to the converted. NB Pic of is me and a friend - two nutty ex-English teachers!

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