Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ask the Editor: Bare vs Bear and Lay vs Lie


Every 1st and 3rd Thursday, I'll take your editorial questions. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and more! I will showcase questions and answers (with permission) once I get questions as well. To ask a question, please fill out the form below.

I've been a freelance editor since November 2010. If I don't know the answer, I will find it.  

Christine Rains asks, “Bear and bare. Most of the time, I have a good idea of when to use the right one. Yet there are a few instances when bear doesn't look right, but I don't feel right about using bare either.” 

“Bare” vs. “Bear” can be tricky. Many times I’ve looked these two words up to make sure whether or not the right one is used. It’s also a word I pause about when reading, editing, and writing.

Bare – As an adjective, “bare” means lacking clothing, naked, exposed to view, or lacking adornment. As a verb, it means to make bare, to uncover, or to expose. I often think of “naked” when I think of “bare.”

For example: “Do you like to go barefoot or with shoes?”

Bear – For one, “bear” is only a noun when referring to the animal and a verb. As a verb, “bear” means to hold, to support, to exhibit, to carry oneself in a specified way, to endure, to give birth to, and to yield (especially fruit).

For example: I have a pet bear. He can’t bear to listen to country music.

If you know the difference between nouns, verbs, and adjectives, then if you have an adjective, then it’ll always be “bare.” If you have a noun, it’s always the animal “bear.” As a verb, it is a bit trickier. Are you exposing something (bare) or supporting something (bear)?

To be honest, a lot of the time I’ll highlight the word and use the Review-Thesaurus in Word. If it shows the right type of words I’m trying to convey, then I have it right. If not, then I know I need the other one. The best way can be to substitute and see. If you know the substitutes, then you can pick the right “bear” or “bare.”

Here are some further websites you can use on the “bear vs bare” subject:

Aubrie Dionne asks, “I'd love it if you did a blog post on lay, laid, lie, and whatever else there is. Still don't get those.”  

Lay vs Lie causes a lot of confusion. I would hazard a guess to say they are the two words people mix up the most.

I’m assuming most people know the verb “to lie” when it means "to tell an untruth."

So we’ll focus on “lay vs lie” when it comes to placement.

Lie means “to recline.” It does not take an object, so the doer is part of the action. In other words, the person/animal is lying down themselves without assistance.
Example: Lie down, child, and go to sleep. The child lies down.

Lay means “to put” or “to place.” Lay needs an object. A person is setting something down.
For example: I lay the book upon the table.

The main confusion comes into the tenses of lie and lay.
Lie “to recline”: lie (present tense), lay (past tense), lain (past participle), and lying (present participle).

Lay “to put/place”: lay (present tense), laid (past tense), laid (past participle), and laying (present participle).
I’m a big fan of substituting words to see if you have the right one. If you can say “recline” in place of “lie,” then you have “lie.” If you can say “put/place/set,” then you have “lay.” Then you’ll have to see what tense you want it in. Unfortunately, tenses just come with memorization.

Here are some websites you can use on the “lay vs lie” subject:


Sarah Pearson said...

My biggest issue is lay as a past tense of lie. I always want to say laid :-)

Terri Talley Venters said...

Very helpful. Great idea. =)

Sarah Allen said...

Awesome :) I love that book cover. So cute!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Christine Rains said...

Thank you! Both were very helpful. I have problems with lie vs. lay too. I've just been avoiding lay most of the time now!