A Couple of Notes on the Parts of Verbs

The tendency of any language is to regularize its structures and became disciplined in its varied functions so that all users and all those who aspire to use it can succeed.

English as a language is more complex and varied than most because of the diverse languages that have made significant contributions to its lexicon (vocabulary) and have often affected its patterns of usage and its grammatical “rules.”

The old system of “diagramming” as a device to teach students about their language did much to familiarize them with at least the rudiments of the sentence and the variations especially of verbs as contributors to sentence patterns.

Recently, in our local paper, I have come across some interesting uses of irregular verbs, one colorful and the other confused.  Here’s the amusing one, a quotation from a Detroit Lions fan taken down by an AP reporter after that NFL team had the dubious distinction of being the first to end a complete season with a 0-16 record.  Here was long-time fan Adam Gadsby’s reaction, “As a Lions fan, we’re used to them stinking. . . . But they’ve never stunk as well as they’re stinking this year.”

Mr. Gadsby may not know how to improve his team’s record, but he certainly knows the principal parts of  the iregular verb “stink.”

The frequent confusion of the principal parts of the verbs “lie” and “lay” was shown in a recent “Saturday Extra” column about animal care.  The errors in using these two irregular verbs are probably seen about as often in writing or print as they are in speech.  Here is the sentence from that column: “My dog has no interest in laying on the couch now.”

Trying to keep it simple, I would offer this distinction.  The verb “lie” means either to tell a falsehood and is thus is a completely regular intransitive verb (“Sometimes I lie.  I may be lying now. Yesterday I lied.  I have lied too often”),  or it means to recline or to rest and has somewhat different principal parts: lie, lying, lay, and lain (Sometimes my dog lies on the couch.  He was lying on the couch today. He lay on the couch yesterday. He has lain on the couch often.”)

The confusion then comes because the similarity of the principal parts of the verb with second meaning of “lie”  and those parts of the transitive verb “lay.”   The principal parts of the latter verb are “lay, laying, laid, laid” (The chicken lays eggs every day.  Today the chicken is/was laying an egg.  Yesterday the chicken laid an egg. The chicken has laid an egg every day this week.”)

Not so simple?  Agreed.  But once learned, seldom forgotten.

And let’s end with a little teaser that was addressed recently in something I read.  The past tense form and the past participle of “sneak”:  is it  “sneaked” or is it “snuck”?  What do you think or know about this?



One Response to “A Couple of Notes on the Parts of Verbs”

  1. Cody Jones Says:

    amazing stuff thanx 🙂

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