Lay versus Lie confuses the heck out of me, and I’m constantly referring back to this entry in the Word Confusions. Ahem, anyone with more examples that would make things even clearer…would be most gratefully added and credited…
As an adjective, lay is easy since it applies to a person. When referring to someone attached to a religious organization, it means someone not ordained. For Catholics, it means someone who cannot perform Mass or hear confessions. In law or medicine, it would mean the person could not argue in a trial or claim to be a doctor.
As a noun, lay is most commonly used as slang and can be applied to a man or woman while lie is morally inappropriate in a great many circumstances, but easy enough to recognize.
It’s when lay or lie are in their verb form that my head starts to ache and wanna go home. The main difference is lay = direct object with action and lie = doin’ nothin’.
|The Grammar Curmudgeon with interesting comparisons between…|
|Lay the book on the desk, would you?
You are actively affecting a direct object, the book.
|The book is lying on the desk…
…it is reclining, resting there.
|If you find a lay on the beach…
…you found someone with whom to engage in sexual intercourse…
|When you go to Bermuda for your vacation, you spend your time lying on the beach
getting a tan, sleeping, reading…
|If you are laying on the couch…
…you are placing someone or something on the couch.
|If you lie down on the sofa to watch TV and spend the entire evening lying there…
…you’re not doing anything.
|If you see something laying on the ground…
…it must be doing something else, such as laying eggs.
|If you see something lying on the ground…
it is just resting there, doing nothing.
…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.
|Credit to: Grammar Girl and The Grammar Curmudgeon; Dictionary.com: lay and lie|
|Part of Grammar:|
|Past tense for lie
Noun 1, 2 ;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 1
|Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive
lied, having lied
|An action in process
Put something/someone down
Belonging to, performed by, or pertaining to a person who is not of the clergy, law profession, medicine
A short narrative or poem that is usually sung 2
[Slang] A partner for purposes of sexual intercourse
To wager or bet
To apply oneself vigorously
To deal or aim blows vigorously (usually followed by on, at, about, etc.)
[Nonstandard] To be in a horizontal, recumbent, or prostrate position, as on a bed or the ground
[Of objects] To rest in a horizontal or flat position
To be or remain in a position or state of inactivity, subjection, restraint, concealment, etc.
To rest, press, or weigh (usually followed by on or upon)
To depend (usually followed by on or upon)
To be placed or situated
To be stretched out or extended
You lay the book down on the sofa.
Put or place something or someone down gently or carefully into a horizontal position
|Requires no movement at all
An untruth, a fabrication, a statement that is purposefully false
You lie down on the sofa.
The act of telling an untruth
Be in or assume a horizontal position, recline
Checking out the lay of the land.
The Catholic Church uses quite a few lay men these days.
She was a sweet lay.
A minstrel may have sung a lay such as the poem by Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
“The shorter the price you wish to lay, the less money you have to risk compared to your potential reward” (Betfair Help Centre).
They laid on their oars with enthusiasm.
He laid blows on right and left.
Dillinger will lay out his plans to rob the bank.
He often lays in bed all the morning.
The book lies on the table.
It’d be a good place to lie in ambush.
These things lie upon my mind.
There’s some nice land lying along the coast.
Explore the broad plain that lies before us.
When the wind lays, it’ll rain.
The hens are laying eggs.
Last week, Steve laid down on the floor.
The cat laid in the mud after it rained yesterday.
Help me lay a cover on the bed.
He laid his finger on her lips.
He told a lie.
No, it’s lies, all lies!
He just laid there!
Steve has lain on the floor for days.
The cat has lain in the mud for hours.
Janey was accustomed to lying her way out of difficulties.
|Noun: lay-by, layaway, layman, laymen, layoff, layout, layperson, laypeople, laywoman, laywomen||Noun: lie-down, lie-in|
|lay about someone
lay about one
lay something aside
lay something down
lay something in
lay someone off
lay something on
lay someone out
lay something out
lay someone up
lay something up
|History of the Word:|
|1 Old English lecgan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch leggen and German legen, also to lie1.||Old English licgan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch liggen and German liegen, from an Indo-European root shared by the Greek lektron, lekhos and Latin lectus meaning bed.|
C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!
Pinterest Photo Credits:
“Laying down the law on lie versus lay” is courtesy of Allison VanNest at Ragan.com.