Writing Tip: Sit vs. Set

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The word choice argument of sit versus set is quite similar to another popular topic – lay versus lie.  We will attempt to clear it up for you to help with your future writing projects.

Set is similar to lay in the fact that it is a transitive verb.  What is a transitive verb?  It’s a verb that requires an object.  A transitive verb essentially transfers its action to the object in question.  For example, you can lay a baby down on a bed.  You can also set a plate down on a table.  Both lay and set in these examples are transferring their actions to the baby and the plate.

The opposite of a transitive verb is an intransitive verb.  These do not require an object, and lie and sit are two examples of such verbs.  You can lie down on a couch, or you can sit on a chair.  No direct objects are required in either case.

Now, since sit and set sound similar and are almost spelled the same, here is a trick that you can remember in the future to avoid any mistakes in usage.

Let’s think of a scenario in which you are a dog owner.  When you first get a new dog and are training it, you tell it to sit.  You also train them to take walks with a leash.  Once you are done talking a walk with your new dog, you come inside and set the leash down somewhere.

Sit, Rufus.

After our walk, I set the leash down on the table.

In the first example, we are describing the action of the dog sitting.  In the second, we are placing or setting an object somewhere.

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