Lie and Lay are frequently misused. Do I lay down before I sleep, or lie down?

The answer is really, really easy, but with a couple of hard bits which can confuse the life out of someone.

People LIE down. If you put a book on a table you LAY it down. So far so good. Whenever placing an inanimate object you lay it down. To take the book analogy further we must be clear on the right word to use according to WHEN the action takes place:

  • Today I lay the book on the table.
  • Tomorrow I will lay the book on the table.
  • Yesterday I laid the book on the table

All of this seems fine, but the person who lies down introduces a small issue that makes the English language the fun-filled living nightmare it is:

  • Today she lies down next to me.
  • Tomorrow she will lie down next to me.
  • Yesterday she lay down next to me.
  • Yesterday she was lain next to me.

"Lay"? Aaarrrggghhhhhhh! The curse of the wayward past tense. "Lain"? The past participle of lie, and the correct way of saying "she was laying next to me", which is completely wrong.

If she was laying next to you then the "she" you're referring to is a chicken. Expect eggs.

Tasks 0/2 completed
1. Buy me a good single malt whisky. Lapfroaigh will do nicely.
2. Point at songs like "Lay Lady Lay" and laugh at them for their ignorance.


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christine2 Premium
I will leave now, because I am constantly picking up grammar and spelling mistakes in others, as well as on the news, in newspapers, in books, on the radio...
Not that mine is perfect, but I must have had VERY GOOD TEACHERS as I was painfully and deliberately acquiring English as my second language...I would never have had the guts to put anything up as training but I find it hilarious and can only commend you, Paul.I feel like I have found a soul mate griping about the same thing. I hope you have given a tutorial on my pet hate: the misuse of the words to lay and to lie. My patients always tell me they were laying down...their life, perhaps? And working in Ashton-under - Lyne near Manchester one of my patients proceeded to tell me: "I were just eating me tea, when..."
Coming from South Africa I never thought that i would need an interpreter for English, but there I did!
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Paul Dean Premium
In Manchester (as elsewhere in England) people will happily admit to being "sat in front of the telly". I never occurs to them that by the same grammatical rules they should "get up and go for a walked". People seem particularly poor at tenses.

When ever I hear the word "sat" on telly I shout the word "sitting!" My wife just sighs.

I'll try to do "me" and "I" tomorrow, along with the correction to "me and him went out".
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mrbill74 Premium
I'm forever correcting my girlfriend's comments, and it's reached the point where I simply brace myself after doing so--I KNOW she's going to smack me! These comments here remind me of a grammar course I enjoyed while still at AT&T. By the end of class, we came to three resolute conclusions:

1) It's not 'Lay Lady Lay', it's 'Lie Lady Lie';
2) It's not 'Lay Down, Sally', it's 'Lie Down, Sally'; and
3) It's not 'I Feel Good!', but 'I Feel Well'.

I may not have used the proper punctuation above, but this discussion is about grammar, right? :-)
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speedking Premium
Hi Christine, good to hear from a fellow South African and great to meat up with you at WA ! I'm very new to all of this, but having a lot of fun doing it .Paul reminds me of one of my English teachers way back when in 'lekka" ol' SA.........keep up the good work Paul , there's always something new to learn.
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RandyKR Premium
You should try to don' t lett it buggya so much.
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teacup Premium
Another one that bothers me is the misuse of the words I and me. Please clarify for those who obviously don't know any better.
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mamalama Premium
As a home-school mom, I deal with grammar issues pretty regularly but I didn't have the guts to create grammar lessons for the WA community. This is a great service to many. Thanks a lot!
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jespinola Premium
Interesting.. I will check my grammar :)
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techhound Premium
Hey Paul, great lesson. How about "Yore" being added to the last section? LOL.

Best Regards,
Jim
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Paul Dean Premium
I'll do "yore" when I do "y'all". (No I won't).
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techhound Premium
LOL. Nice!
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