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Thread: lay versus lie

  1. #1
    kckckomets Guest

    Default lay versus lie

    Why does he "lay down helplessly" but we can also "lay the rug on the floor" or do we "lie the rug on the floor"?

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    Default Re: lay versus lie

    Quote Originally Posted by kckckomets View Post
    Why does he "lay down helplessly" but we can also "lay the rug on the floor" or do we "lie the rug on the floor"?
    https://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/lay.html
    excerpt:
    You lay down the book you’ve been reading, but you lie down when you go to bed. In the present tense, if the subject is acting on some other object, it’s “lay.” If the subject is lying down, then it’s “lie.” This distinction is often not made in informal speech, partly because in the past tense the words sound much more alike: “He lay down for a nap,” but “He laid down the law.” If the subject is already at rest, you might “let it lie.” If a helping verb is involved, you need the past participle forms. “Lie” becomes “lain” and “lay” becomes “laid”: “He had just lain down for a nap,” and “His daughter had laid the gerbil on his nose.”

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    Default Re: lay versus lie

    lie =(of a person or animal) assume a horizontal or resting position
    Now I lie
    Yesterday I lay
    I have lain
    I am lying

    lay = put something down
    Now I lay
    Yesterday I laid
    I have laid
    I am laying

    (Yesterday he) lay down helplessly =past tense of 'lie'

    lay the rug on the floor = present tense of 'lay'

    " or do we "lie the rug on the floor"?

    No... but we can lie on the rug that you had previously laid on the floor!
    Last edited by David L.; 04-Jan-2008 at 12:49.

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    Default Re: lay versus lie

    Quote Originally Posted by kckckomets View Post
    Why does he "lay down helplessly" but we can also "lay the rug on the floor" or do we "lie the rug on the floor"?
    As David hinted, "lay" and "lie" are quite difficult, and confuse even native speakers. I fact, you will often see native speakers writing "lay" when what they mean is "lie".

    I expect that in a few generations, we'll have only one verb "lay" to mean both "assume a horizontal position" and "put something down" (in the same way that in modern English, "stand" can mean either "to assume an upright position" or "to put something in an upright position"). But in formal English at least, for now you should remember the difference -- while understanding that a lot of native speakers get very confused.

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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: lay versus lie

    M-W:

    lay

    usage lay has been used intransitively in the sense of “lie” since the 14th century. The practice was unremarked until around 1770; attempts to correct it have been a fixture of schoolbooks ever since. Generations of teachers and critics have succeeded in taming most literary and learned writing, but intransitive lay persists in familiar speech and is a bit more common in general prose than one might suspect. Much of the problem lies in the confusing similarity of the principal parts of the two words. Another influence may be a folk belief that lie is for people and lay is for things. Some commentators are ready to abandon the distinction, suggesting that lay is on the rise socially. But if it does rise to respectability, it is sure to do so slowly: many people have invested effort in learning to keep lie and lay distinct. Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do.

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