Paul's Grammar Corner
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.