One of the most confusing words in the English language is lay (or is it lie?). Most of us have no idea about the rules that make lay and lie so difficult. We probably use them incorrectly all the time. As we move from the present tense to the past, lay, laid, lain, things get even murkier.
Recently I found an amazing blog post that helped me sort all this out. I’m sharing it here with you. Someday you’ll thank me. Today, you’ll probably curse me for ever bringing up the question.
Brian tells us whether we use lay or lie (or the consistent past participles) depends on the object of our verb. Both mean the same thing–to put something aside. I bet you knew that already. What you didn’t know is the words change depending on what you put aside. As Brian neatly points out in the blog, if you’re putting aside a book, you lay it aside. If you put yourself aside, you lie down. Furthermore, the common bedtime story that says, “Now I lay me down to sleep” is actually correct. Can you see why? (Lay has an object and that object is me).
Good grief! I won’t go into the past tense lay, laid, and lain (No, I didn’t make a mistake. Lay is not only the present tense with an object, it also serves as the past tense for lie –She lay down for a nap last evening.)
Can you see why these words give us headaches. Imagine those people trying to learn English! Thank you Brian for sharing this wonderful information with us. Someday, all of you will thank me as well.
Lisa B says
This is one of those things that can drive a person crazy!
I had a tutor once, back in the day, who used to tell us: “You lay an egg, you don’t lay down!” – this has stuck in my head for years and I don’t know why it makes me chuckle every time, but he was right and wrong in so many ways!!
I am thankful that with a little patience you can figure the tense out once you get the hang of it, but indeed, the English language can be a tricky one! Don’t even get me started on my transition from England’s English and America’s English! With my move to the U.S. I have been constantly red-lined on word for my so-called “mistakes” – sigh!
Joan Curtis says
Being really English, perhaps we should defer to you rather than “red line” you!
Nonetheless I’m grateful I was born into English and didn’t have to “learn” it later. It’s hard enough for us natives!