I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead.” This would be funny if it were not incorrect. The past tense and the past participle of lead is led.
A general leads his troops into battle.
Napoleon led his men into Russia just before the winter.
Soon the men realized that they had been led into a dire situation.
Lie vs. Lay
Lie (intransitive verb) means to recline or rest on a surface. This verb does not take an object. (That’s what it means to be intransitive.) You lie on the bed, lie down, or you are lying down. Lie (verb or noun) also means declaring an untruth or a false statement.
Lay (transitive verb) means to put or place something on a surface. Lay must be followed by an object, such as in lay the book down or chickens lay eggs.
The past tense of lie is lay, as in, He told me to lie down, and I lay down. This is tricky: the present tense of lay is lay, so you would write,
He told me to lay it down, and I laid it down.
She lays out her clothes for the next day every night before she lies down to sleep.
The past tense of lie is lay. The past tense of lay is laid.
That night, he lay down peacefully.
The past tense of lay is laid.
The chicken laid a dozen eggs.
The past participle of lie is lain. The past participle of lay is laid.
The corpse had lain there for days.
The past participle of lay is laid.
The men had laid the concrete several days before.
Rise vs. Raise
Rise (intransitive verb or noun) means to move from a lower to a higher position or to ascend. This word does not take an object. You might rise from bed in the morning, but you do not rise the bed. Rise also means to increase in number, amount, or value.
Raise (transitive verb or noun) means to elevate or pick something up, to cause to rise up. Like lay, raise must be followed by an object, as in, “Raise your hand.”
Please rise, come to the front of the courtroom, and raise your right hand.
He’s decided to raise cotton because he thinks that prices for natural fabrics are sure to rise.
Sit vs. Set
Sit is intransitive; it means to be seated. Set is transitive; it means to place something somewhere.
Please sit in the brown chair.
Set is transitive; it means to place something somewhere.
Set the cup on the table.
The past tense of sit is sat. The past tense of set is set.
He sat uncomfortably in the tall chair.
The past tense of set is set. (This is where these words get confusing.)
He set the book down before he stood up.
The past participle of sit is sat. The past participle of set is set.
They had sat there for an hour before the show began.
The past participle of set is set.
He had set the timer for 15 minutes but it didn’t go off.
Want to learn more about transitive and intransitive verbs? They’re easier to understand than you might think. Check out Get to the Point, 2nd edition, available through www.worktalk.com.