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The Grammar Guru

The detective showed his badge to the woman who opened the door. "Detective Frost, ma'am. I have a few questions about last night. Can I come in?"

(Yes, he should have said, "May I.")

The woman led him in to the living room and, for some reason, the detective laid his badge on top of the TV. "Now, Mrs. Windsor, tell me what happened last night."

Mrs. Windsor put her hands in the pockets of her house dress: "I decided to take a nap before dinner, so I lay down on the couch." She stopped.

"Then what?" said the detective.

"The phone rang in the kitchen, so I got up and answered it." Again, she stopped.


"It was a wrong number, so I said goodbye and laid the phone back down and lay down again on the couch."

The detective took out his pocket watch and slapped it on the coffee table. Glaring at Mrs. Windsor, he said, "You have two minutes to finish your story!" She took a breath. "I put on the TV news, which was full of crime and commercials and, just as the weather report came on, my neighbor knocked on my door and came in without waiting for me to answer and laid a gorgeous, gold bracelet on the coffee table and told me she'd found it on her front porch and should she call the police or what? A few times, she picked up the bracelet, looked at it and laid it back down, and I said, 'What do you think you should do?' and she left."

The detective, who'd turned red, stormed out. He was in such a rush, he forgot his badge, which he'd laid on the TV, but even when he remembered, he didn't go back for it.

Remember: lay -- past tense of "lie"; laid -- past tense of "lay".



1) After digging for gold for a few minutes, the prospector (lay/laid) down his shovel and read another chapter of "I'm OK. You're OK."

2) "I (lay/laid) on the beach until the tide came in," the crab told his wife.

3) Phoebe took a bite of her hamburger, (lay/laid) it down and took a sip of coffee.



1) laid (There's nothing you can't do if you keep yourself inspired.)

2) lay (The crab's wife said, "Fascinating," and sidled away. Can you blame her?)

3) laid (When she'd had her fill of bites and sips, Phoebe left the cafeteria and went back to work. Witnesses can attest to that.)

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