Monday, March 17, 2008

Grammar Monday: Lay? Lie? Lain? WHAT?

I've had more than one request for an explanation of how to use lie and lay and their respective conjugated forms. Fear not! It's easier than you think! Well, kind of.

First, let's talk about the words sit and set because most people understand those, and lie and lay are similar. The word sit refers to an action done by a person (or animal or other...uh...thing that can do the action on its own) and set refers to an action done to something. I sit, but I set things down. The cat is sitting. He is setting the box down on the stairs. Make sense? Yes? Good. I'm guessing that most of you already knew this, and not only that, but that you have been using those words correctly. Which is what will make remember lie and lay ever so much easier.

When it comes to lie and lay, lie is like sit in that it is an action that is done by someone/something. A handy way to remember this is by noting that the middle letter of both words is I. The next step is to conjugate it, which is tricky for two reasons. First, lie is a homonym, so it is fairly easy to confuse the conjugation of the word lie which means "to recline" with the conjugation of the word lie which means "falsehood." Second, the past tense of lie is lay, which makes a lot of people go, "No. Wait. Uh?" Honestly, if this is confusing to you every time, or if you do not have a mind like a steel trap for memorizing such things, there is nothing wrong with looking it up. The conjugation of the word lie (meaning "to recline") is as follows: I lie. He lies. She lies. They lie. We lie. In other tenses: I am lying on my couch. She lay on the floor last night. He has lain in that spot for years.

Now for lay. Like set, lay is an action that is performed upon something else. It means "to place," and so there is always a thing that is being placed. Conjugation is: I lay. She lays. He lays. They lay. We lay. In other tenses: I am laying down the book. She laid the brownie mix aside for later. He has laid the dog down in the doghouse.

To sum up:
Lie is like sit. Remember this by noting that the middle letter is the same.

The forms are: lie, lies, is (am) lying, lay, has lain.

Lay is like set.

The forms are: lay, lays, am (are) laying, laid, has laid.


Any questions? Corrections from those smarter than me? Requests for another Grammar Monday?


Jennifer said...

Yaay! I love you! thank yoU so much! I might just bookmark that unti lI get to read it a few times adn internalize. Mmmmm... internalize....

Mea Santos said...

I didn't know that! thank you!

Mea Santos said...

Ha! I have a question!

what about forbear and forbid!?

I know the forms but couldn't get the difference in the meaning!