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Following up on Busy Mom’s lead, I present an often-confused pair of related verbs: “lie” versus “lay.” I find that even people whose use of the language is otherwise impeccable can confuse these at times.

Remember these two points:

  • “Lie” is not what you do to something, it’s simply something that you do.
  • “Lay” is not a thing you can simply do. You must do it to someone or something else.

If you find conjugations and examples helpful, here you go. I’m using “the baby” as a logical thing that one might lay down on a regular basis, and finishing the sentences with “down” because I feel that helps clarify the difference between “I lie” as in lying down versus “I lie” as in telling a lie.

Present Tense:

To Lie: To Lay:

I lie down. I lay the baby down.

You lie down. You lay the baby down.

He/she/it lies down. He/she/it lays the baby down.

We lie down. We lay the baby down.
They lie down. They lay the baby down.

Seems simple enough so far, doesn’t it? Let’s continue.

Past Tense:

To Lie To Lay

I lay down. I laid the baby down.

You lay down. You laid the baby down.

He/she/it lay down. He/she/it laid the baby down.

We lay down. We laid the baby down.

They lay down. They laid the baby down.

If you compare the present tense “lay” column to the past tense “lie” column, it’s easy enough to see where the confusion comes from.

Mnemonic: Wherever I lie down, I lay my body down.

I had no idea, when I ran across a copy of Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep? in a children’s thrift shop here in Podunk Falls, that I was about to instigate Nate’s latest obsession. Green SheepBetween the thrift store pricing and my vague recollection of positive reviews from fellow parents, I bought it without investigating it beyond the cover. He fell in love with it immediately, reading it over two dozen times in the following week.

I can see why. Though the tastes of toddlers are fickle indeed, this book has all the ingredients for success: bright colors, simple pictures that still have plenty to look at, only a sentence or so per page (not too overwhelming for my little monkey, who likes to inspect the words for letters he can name: Shoo! Hhh. Eee. Eee! Puh.), a nicely rhythmic, rhyming text, and a mystery neatly revealed.

As you read the story, you find out about many kinds of sheep: sheep with colors, sheep in circuses, sheep on playgrounds, sheep in trains. After each pair of sheep (opposites or simply alternatives: up sheep, down sheep; swing sheep, slide sheep) the book invites your child to look for the green sheep. Near the end, there is a giant scene with all the sheep in the book (and more we haven’t seen before), in which a child may search for the green sheep.

This engaging book can easily be read in several ways: reading the text quickly if you’re in a hurry, poring over each page’s illustrations to talk about what the sheep are doing if you need to make storytime last a little longer. Its low-key ending makes it an excellent bedtime story — unless your child is like Nate, who claps his hands and cheers when we finally find that green sheep, gearing himself up for another reading or more play. Thanks to the simplicity of the text and the pictures that could clue an early reader in to an unfamiliar word, I suspect it will also make for a great book when he reaches the stage of reading by himself, making this book a long-lasting favorite.

homonyzed – adj. To mis-type a word as another identical-sounding word, even though one knows that they are two separate words and are spelled differently.

Example: “Yeah, I know the difference between ‘reign’ and ‘rein.’ I just got homonyzed.”