Last week I marked a batch of stories from my college students. I marked so many lie/lay/lain – lay/laid errors that I got confused myself. I ended up “correcting” at least one lie/lay problem issue that turned out to be correct already. So I figured we could all use a refresher on this perennial trouble spot.
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Let’s start with the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs. A verb is transitive if it can take a direct object. Eat is a transitive verb because it takes a direct object, as in the sentence “Clarence eats an egg every morning” (the direct object is egg). Sleep is an intransitive verb because it doesn’t take a direct object. You can say “I slept this afternoon,” but not “I slept a nap this afternoon.” Note that a transitive verb doesn’t always take a direct object. If you say “I still haven’t eaten,” there’s no direct object, but have eaten is still a transitive verb.Read More