7 troublesome verb pairs

‘Swam’ or ‘swum’? ‘Dived’ or ‘dove’? Try these tips when you can’t figure out the difference.

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In last week’s post, I wrote about the basics of verbs. These words power our sentences, but they can cause trouble even for the most experienced writers and editors. Test yourself on the use of verbs in the following sentence:

Sarah (swam or swum) out, (dove or dived) to the bottom and (drug or dragged) the drowned child from the lake.

Not sure of the answers? You’re not alone. Troublesome verb pairs trip can trip up anyone. Below is the sentence with the correct verbs, along with a few rules about verb pairs.

Sarah swam out, dived to the bottom, and dragged the drowned child from the lake.

Lay and lie

Lay means to put or place. Lay and its tense forms—lay (present tense), laid (past tense), laid (past participle)—are transitive. This means they always have a direct object.

Please lay the book on the table.
I laid the book on the shelf.

Lie means to rest or recline. Its tense forms—lie, lay, lain—are intransitive and do not have a direct object.

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