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