Friday, March 19, 2010

On Lay vs. Lie

Some Buffalo Wild Wings trivia brought an issue that is very important to me to mind. As a Computer Science major, usually the only grammar issues I care about are Java syntax and parentheses count. (Note the mismatched whatever-you-call-it in that sentence) But on the issue of the use of the words 'lay' and 'lie', I will never relent. No, never! I see them misused online, in song lyrics, and by my fellow students. I had a fantastic English teacher in high school who taught me how to use these tricky words, and I will share her wisdom now.

'Lay' has an object; it always acts on something; you lay something down. It could be your keys on the counter, a bag on the ground, or yourself on a bed. It's also the past tense of 'lie', which probably confuses a lot of people. So, for example, you could say "I lay myself down in bed" or "I lay there all last night." The past tense of 'lay' is 'laid'.

'Lie' has no object; it's reflexive. After you lay an object down, if it's inanimate it will lie there until someone picks it up. i.e. "You look tired; you should lie down awhile."

Hopefully this clears up some confusion. Now go and lay down the law...s of grammer.

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