Remember my Tip of the Day about Lie vs. Lay? The same rule about transitive and intransitive verbs applies to Sit and Set.
Sit is a verb that means to rest on your butt. It is an intransitive verb, which means it does not take a direct object. In other words, you can sit, you can tell your dog to sit, but you cannot sit a thing down. The past tense of Sit is Sat.
Set is a verb that means to put or to place. It is a transitive verb, which means it takes a direct object. In other words, you can set
something on the table, you can set a table, but you cannot set down. You can set yourself down, but then “yourself” would be the direct object. Set is also the past tense of Set.
Therefore, in the Ballad of Jed Clampett, theme song for the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, there is a grammatical mistake
when they get to the end and say:
“Set a spell. Take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, hear?”
Jed and Granny want you to rest on your butt on their front porch in the rocking chair, so “sit a spell” would be the correct term.
Of course, there are a whole bunch of other meanings for Set that might confuse you.
The sun sets in the west.
That’s an intransitive verb form because the sun is doing it all by itself, and there is no direct object in the sentence.
Here’s another one:
It takes about an hour for Jell-O to set in the refrigerator.
Here “set” means “congeal,” another intransitive usage.
Did you know that Jell-O was invented in my home town of LeRoy, NY? When the town celebrated the 100th anniversary of Jell-O, my mom, who worked part-time as a docent at the Jell-O Museum on Main Street, sent me the official Jell-O Jubilee T-shirt. On it, in colorful Jell-O jiggler letters, was the following:
100 Years Old, and Still Jiggling
I do not wear this T-shirt. While I can jiggle with the best of them, I’m just past halfway there, age-wise. I’ve decided to give the
shirt to the first FOJ = Friend of Jeanne who makes it to 100 years old. The race is on!
Profound Quote of the Day:
“Be careful what you set your heart upon, for it will surely be yours.”
– James A. Baldwin, American author, 1924-1987