To Lie or to Lay? That is the Question

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Language Lessons. ... Image via Wikipedia

One of the most confusing and hard-to-figure-out topics in the English language is lie vs. lay. I was going to write a somewhat-longer post to explain this issue, but just now I realized that there’s a simple way to say it: A person lies himself down, but lays objects down. Some example sentences:

“I’m tired, so I’m going to lie down.”

“Freeze! This is the police! We have you surrounded! Lay down your weapon!”

So if a person is acting on himself, on his own body, it’s lie; if he’s acting on some other object, including another human body, it’s lay. Or think of it this way: Inanimate objects can’t tell lies, but people can: people lie, and people lie.

And in case you were wondering, here are the correct forms for each word for each of the three basic tenses:

Lay: laid (past), laying (present), lay (future)

Lie: lied (past), lying (present), lie (future)

So now you’re a pro at this. You’ve earned a rest, so go lie down, then go out and lay claim to the world!

Class dismissed. =)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: By Request: Lay Verses Lie | Jennifer M Eaton

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