Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally: Lie vs Lay

Everybody's been on the edge of their seat about this, I just know. Here finally at last is all I know about the proper usages of lie and lay. Believe it or not, I had to look some of this stuff up.
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I'm talking about to lie as in "to recline on a surface". And the lay I'm talking about has nothing to do with sex. Its nice that lie and lay can mean so many things, its one of the neat things about English. Just so we're straight on the meanings I'm talking about.
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OK, this may seem obvious, but lie and lay are two different words, with two different meanings. Heck they're even spelled differently & sound differently. These words are not interchangable - if they were, there would be no confusion, and what fun would that be?
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The big difference between lie and lay (besides the fact that they are different words), is that lie is an intrasitve verb, and lay is transitive. Lay takes a direct object (accusative case). Lie does not. It's I lie down vs I'm going to lay the glass on the table. "glass" is a direct object. It is incorrect (and sounds a little funny) to say I am going to lie the glass on the table. It is also apparently incorrect, and doesnt sound the least bit funny to say, I am going to lay down.
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Guess what the past tense of lie is? Lay, of course. Not the transitive verb tho - looks the same, spelled the same, pronounced the same, but it's a different word. Its the past tense of lie. So: Yesterday, Gina lay on the couch for hours. Sounds odd doen't it. If you're like me, you want to say Gina laid on the couch for hours. If you're like me, you'd be wrong.
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The past participle of lie is a word I've never used in my life: lain. "He has lain on this table long enough, pull the plug!"
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The present participle of lie is much easier for me to comprehend: lying. "Help me, help me, I'm lying right here!"
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So, lie looks like this: Lie, Lay, Lain, Lying
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Now, the beautiful Lay. (stop laughing).
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Lay takes a direct object. I lay the knife down. Now I lay me down to sleep.
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The past tense of lay is the very versitile laid. (wink, nudge) stop it. When Bill pointed the gun at my head, I laid the knife down.
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Laid rears its ugly head again, because it is also the past participle: Bill, I have laid the knife down, so kindly point the gun somewhere else.
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The present participle is laying: After laying down the knife, I high tailed it out the door.
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So lay looks like this: Lay, Laid, Laid, Laying.
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I like lay better than lie, its a bit more regular. Lie is somewhat irregular. I don't know if its the most irregular verb in English, but its up there, since it is such a common word. Of course there are two plurals in English (maybe more) which seem to come from deep in our Anglo-Saxon roots: Oxen (plural of ox), and Children (plural of child). So lie is in good company.
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I like language, but I'm not sure I like it this much.
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Just so everyone knows, I tested our very own Patti Anne about this, and she got it all right. She said she learned it all back when she was a smart girl.

4 comments:

Ms. Orange said...

LOL what confusion! I think I'm more confused than before, going to plop myself on the bed for a little bit and think about... :)

TrishaRitchieNC said...

Lie me down ...
Lay, lady, lay across my big brass bed ...
He laid his hand upon my brea...
I have never lied to you....
I have lied with you ... or laid with you ...

Patti Anne

Holly said...

Oh, oh, oh, is that a completely evil set of words! I have seen lain before but only in old literature - maybe I'll use it a lot now just to see the puzzled looks on peoples faces. Thank you so much for setting that straight . It's easier to take when you make it so funny!

Jesse Frederick said...

Thanks for setting me straight. That was helpful. Now I am going to lie down. :^)