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Don't have a clue about grammar? What is grammar, anyway?

Well, it isn't your mother's mom, but it is a relationship,
between words rather than people. And it's the way words are used
according to the rules of a language, to convey thoughts clearly.
Sometimes what makes no difference in speech makes a BIG difference when the same thing is written.
For example, there is a common problem with writing it's and its.

The clue? Use the apostrophe ONLY when you mean it is. You see, it's easy!

No, you absolutely don't use an apostrophe with "its" at any other time.
What if, for example, you want to say that a raccoon is washing the paws of that raccoon?
The raccoon is washing its paws. Its face is clean, too. It's going to eat its apple now.

Mail, fax, or e-mail your grammar questions; we'll answer them here.

And if you're confused, don't worry; you have lots of company. We'll do our best to clear things up.
This is free to you, even if you don't use our other services. Our primary goal here is to promote language skills
that will help you express your thoughts with unmistakable clarity and grammatical accuracy.
No need to stay in the dark. The Write Idea will light the way.

Ready for your next clue?

Thanks to Sylvia for this grammar clue, wherein we will make a valiant effort to dispel the confusion between lie and lay.
These two make us want to lay our heads on our desks and groan.
However, with just a little practice, it's no trick to lay the confusion to rest.

The main problem with lie and lay lies (!) in the fact that
the past tense of "lie" is also "lay." So for "lie" the present tense is lie,
past is lay, and the past participle (what you use with "has" and "have") is lain.
For "lay" the present is lay, past laid, and past participle, laid.

"Lie" in any tense never takes an object (this makes it an intransitive verb.
You could say that nothing is "in transit.")
So you lie down now (last night, you lay down), but
you can't "lie" any object (thing) down. You can't even lie yourself down.

That's where lay (a transitive verb) comes in: there must be an object,
something that is being handled, acted upon, with any tense of lay. (Something is "in transit.")
Now you can lay yourself down.
And you lay your hat on the chair, and a hen (or a comedian) lays an egg.
Yesterday, both hen and comedian laid an egg.
He'd better try a different career.

Remember: if there is no object, use lie.
"I'm not going to lie on the deck. After I lay there yesterday, my back hurt. I've lain there before, but on a mat."

Don't say, "I'm going to lay on the deck" or "She's laying on the floor" unless you're referring to hens, ducks, geese, or other feathered friends. Or maybe a duck-billed platypus.

Remember: Lay ALWAYS must have an object, something it acts on.
It was so hot, after I laid my camera on the patio table, the film melted. So my advice is, don't lay your camera outside. If you have laid it outside already, better check the film.

Of course, it only adds to the confusion that in speech, "he lay down" sounds just like "he laid down." Aaarrgh!

When writing what someone is thinking, don't use quotation marks!
Quotes show what is spoken aloud, not unvoiced thoughts.

He thought, That bear's coming my way. "Help!" he yelled.

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