Lay Down the Lie

February 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Grammar, Mini-Lessons

There are so many misused words in our crazy language.  This pair is one of the most confusing because the past tense of one is the same as the present tense of the other.  ⇒ ⇒

The parents of this beautiful, precious baby laid her down for a nap.

Lay vs. Lie 

 

Lay means “to place something down.” It is something you do to something else.

Incorrect: Lie the coat on the chair.

Correct: Lay the coat on the chair.
(It is being done to something else.)

Lie means “to recline” or “be placed.” It does NOT act on anything or anyone else.

Incorrect: Lay down on the hammock.

Correct: Lie down on the hammock.

(It is not being done to anything else.)

But . . . the real reason lay and lie are confusing is their past tenses:

The past tense of lay is laid. (remember, to lay is to put something else down)

The past tense of lie is lay. (remember, to lie is to recline yourself)  THIS IS THE CONFUSING PART!!

Incorrect: I lay the box down here yesterday.

Correct: I laid the box down here yesterday.
(It is being done to something else.)

Incorrect: Last night I couldn’t sleep and laid awake in bed.

Correct: Last night I couldn’t sleep and lay awake in bed.
(It is not being done to anything else.)

And to add to the confusion . . . We use the past participle of verbs when we are indicating a timeline during which no specific date is given.

The past participle of lie is lain.

The past participle of lay is like the past tense, laid.

Correct: On Sunday, I could have lain in bed all day.  (indicating the action, in this case lying in bed, will be complete at some point in the future, but you don’t know when)  I KNOW THIS SOUNDS WEIRD . . . I MEAN, WHO TALKS LIKE THIS, RIGHT?!  WE SHOULD BECAUSE IT’S CORRECT!!

Correct: They have laid an average of 500 feet of sandbags a day.  (indicating the action, in this case laying sandbags, was finished at some point each day)

BTW . . . Layed is a misspelling and does not exist. Use laid!!

  • Winsor Pilates

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