Friday 31 January 2014

Lay vs. Lie

To lay or lie--most often a meddlesome question.

One of the most confusing verbs in the English language. If you look up "lay/lie" on the internet, you can find pages of discussions on the topic. 
What's with this three-letter word that has so many people scratching their heads? I think there are two reasons:                                                                                                                                      

          1. The word lay has two completely different meanings.         
          2. We use these verbs incorrectly in speech.
To get these verbs to work properly, there are only six words you need to remember, and if you remember them in order it will all be much clearer.
         - Lie, lay, lain                                                                                 

        - Lay, laid, laid
When you are not sure of when to use lie, think of your bed. Lie is something you do to yourself (well unless you are not telling the truth to someone else, but in this case we're talking about the verb lie as in reclining). I lie down, beside the dragon, today. I lay down, beside the dragon, yesterday. I had lain down, beside the dragon, every day this month.
Lay is something someone does to something else (this verb takes a direct object. Lie never does). Think of lay and think of a place.  The dragon lay the book on the bookshelf. The witch laid the book on the book shelf yesterday.  The magician had laid the book on the bookshelf every day this month.
Easy right? Just remember: "Lie, lay, lain." "Lay, laid, laid."
Illustrations by Samantha Kickingbird

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copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2014


  1. I'd be careful when you lie next to a dragon, whether you lay or lain, or simply lie, chances are if you lay next to a dragon it will make toast of you before you could say you had laid next to a dragon. Why is laid twice? Must you repeat yourself? Just lay and then say you laid. No need to tell me again.

    Nice post. Really it is. I tend to lie a lot because I am off balance feet wise. So I have laid down by accident more than I care to admit. Now I know if I am lying, laying, lain-ing, or laid-ing. Now if you could tell me how to stand or if I stood, cause I may be thinking or having a thought, though a thought is often throughout. I think.

    You really do explain this stuff well. Do you use any particular reference?

  2. The only dragon I know well enough to lie next to is Snarls, and Snarls lies down nicely and doesn't toast me. He is a very good dragon.

    I don't use any particular references for my grammar posts. I read many posts and/or books and try to break all the jibberish blah blah down into something simpler. That way, it makes more sense to me.