Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been using "lay" but many people have looked at my sentence dubiously.

However, while in secondary school, I abandoned my higher scientific aspirations because I became more focused on a career rather than finding where my personal interests truly lay.

I think I'm trying to use "lie" in past tense, so I used "lay", but is the "finding..." clause present-tense, so does that clash?

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

No, there is no tense clash. Finding is a gerund here (a verb turned into a noun by adding -ing), and nouns fit with any tense.

You are also correct in supposing that the past tense of lie is lay, though (as FumbleFingers notes below) lie could actually be what you want to use; the present tense would signify that your prevailing personal interests have not changed since then.

Also, I might say finding a job/employment instead of a career, since finding or pursuing a career implies that you are searching out what you want to do; from the context it looks like you mean you found it necessary to take up a job just to make money, not to pursue as a career goal:

However, while in secondary school, I abandoned my higher scientific aspirations because I became more focused on finding a job rather than finding where my personal interests truly lay.

share|improve this answer
2  
It's true there's no tense clash, but it's not obvious to me OP couldn't have written lie instead - again with no tense clash. His true interests are presumably enduring, as @David says (though unlike him, I'm not convinced it makes any difference at all which tense is used for them). –  FumbleFingers Nov 3 '11 at 18:39
    
Agreed with @FumbleFingers, the OP’s example is correct (grammatically and idiomatically) with either lie or lay. The subtle difference in meaning between options like these has come up before, at “Yes, I thought it was very good.” Why thought? –  PLL Nov 3 '11 at 18:55
    
"However, while in secondary school, I abandoned my higher scientific aspirations as I became more focused on employment rather than finding and sating my true personal interests." and skip lie/lay altogether? :P –  Nick T Nov 3 '11 at 19:21
1  
That would be fine ;) - only sating sounds a little self-indulgent. I would use pursuing. –  Daniel Nov 3 '11 at 19:23

You need the present tense here because you are making a general statement, not describing something that occurred in the past. A general statement is true all the time, so it is true NOW, thus requiring the present tense.

Also, this sentence has a parallelism problem. You are trying to match "a career" with "finding where my personal interests truly lay [lie]." I recommend this:
"...more focused on pursuing a career rather than on finding where my personal...."

Finally, remove "truly." It is unnecessary and adds no meaning in this sentence.

share|improve this answer
2  
It looks to me like the OP is speaking of the past. Also, I think truly does add an element of meaning to the sentence. It is there to emphasize that the career he was pursuing was not what he was really interested in. –  Daniel Nov 3 '11 at 18:29

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.