Questions from my learners – 3

These are short posts in which I will answer two questions that my learners have asked me. The contents list will build up as I add more questions. There is no easy way to sort and categorise them, so I will list other questions in the series in alphabetical order at the end of the post.

When don’t you add an S to words to show that they are plural?
As you know, many plurals are formed by just adding an S. dog – dogs. Muffin – muffins. Plant – plants.
Sometimes you need to add ES – otherwise the word would be really difficult to say. Dish – dishes.
Sometimes you need to remove a Y and add IES. Party – parties.
Sometimes there is no plural noun because you are talking about an uncountable noun such as furniture or information. I went to buy some furniture. I have no further information.
Some singular nouns don’t have plurals. A sheep was looking over the fence. There were many sheep in the field.
Finally, I sometimes see people trying to add an S to nouns which are already plural. One man – two men – not two mens. One child –many children – not many childrens. Don’t add an S to plural nouns such as men, women or children.

What’s the difference between lay and lie?
Many native speakers confuse the verbs “lay” and “lie” but they are actually two different verbs.
The verb “to lie” has two meanings. It can mean not to tell the truth, but that isn’t the meaning that we’re looking at here.
If I have a headache, I might go and lie down.
My dog was lying on the floor. The subject of the verb, in this case my dog, was doing the action.
If you use “lay”, something has to be laid somewhere. Therefore you need a subject and an object. I laid the papers on the table.
If I want my dog to stop bouncing around, I could tell her to “lie down!” “Lay down” would be wrong, because she’s going to lie on the floor, not to lay another object somewhere.
The difficulty is that the past tense of lay is laid and the past tense of lie is … lay!
I lie on the sofa. I lay on the sofa.
I lay my dress out on the bed. I laid my dress out on the bed.


Other questions in this series

Affect or effect?
Should it be every day or everyday?
Why do you keep correcting me when I write “myself”?
Why do you keep crossing out the word “do” in my writing?

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Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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