Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Confusing "Lie" and "Lay"

Is there an easy way to remember the difference between "lie" and "lay"?  If so, I hope you'll share it with me because I've always found those words confusing.  And unless you can tell me an easy way to keep up with the correct usage, I'll keep having to jog my memory occasionally by checking with the experts.

"Lie" means to recline.  "Lay" means to place.  I lay the book on the table. The book lies on the table.  That seems easy enough. 

But wait.  What about the past?  Yesterday I laid the book on the table and it lay there for hours. Right?  I'm not sure.  I'll have to look that up.  Along with "It has lain there before." 
Okay. It seems I was right. For lie (to recline), I would say "I'm going to lie down," "I lay down for an hour yesterday," and "I have lain down for an hour every afternoon this week."  For lay (to place), I would say "I usually lay the book on the table," "I laid it there yesterday," and "I have laid it there before." 

I still find that confusing.  

But one really good bit of news.  The word "lie," when used as a synonym for telling a falsehood, is consistent: You lie, you lied yesterday, and you have lied frequently. (No offense intended.)  

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