Monday, July 2, 2007

Lie vs. Lay

Today we’re going to look at these often misused verbs. I’m hoping this will help you figure out which word to use when.

Lay is what is called a transitive verb. That simply means that this is a verb that demands a direct object. It means to put something down, to place or set an object somewhere. It also mean to place for rest or sleep (think babies or funerals, as in lay someone to rest). The various forms of this verb are: lay, laying, laid, and laid.

Lay your pencils down.
The woman was laying the dishes on the table.
She laid her pencil on the desk.
He had laid his pencil on the table.

Lie is an intransitive verb, meaning it never uses a direct object. However, it is usually followed by a preposition. It means to rest or recline, to assume a horizontal position. Now here is where it gets a little confusing. The verb forms are: lie, lying, lay, lain.

I lie down on the bed for a short nap.
The dog was lying on the rug before the hearth.
Exhausted, the woman lay down on the sofa.
The body had lain in the garden for several hours before being discovered.

One quick hint on how to tell which verb to use, try substituting the verb with set. If it works the verb is transitive and you use a form of lay.

Set your pencils down.
She set her pencil on the desk.
He had set his pencil on the table.

If it doesn’t work, like in the following examples, use a form of lie.

I set down on the bed for a short nap.
The dog was setting on the rug before the hearth.
Exhausted, the woman set down on the sofa.
The body had set in the garden for several hours before being discovered.

See if this helps your word choices when it comes to these two verbs in the future. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

For those readers who live in the States, I hope you have plans to celebrate our nation’s independence on Wednesday. We’re planning to spend some time at our cabin during the day. Haven’t decided where to watch fireworks, though.

Thursday I’ll be posting my thoughts about attending writer’s conferences, specifically the ACFW conference in September. Have a good writing week!

1 comment:

Danica/Dream said...

I love you, Margie! I am forever confused on this!