Two words have seldom been more confusing than the two verbs lay and lie. Yes, they are actually two different words, but the first area of confusion is that the simple past tense of lie is spelled exactly the same as the word lay. Not only that, but the main difference between the word lie and the word lay is that lie is intransitive and lay is transitive--a grammatical concept not instantly familiar to most of us. Here's how to pick the correct word every time.
Step 1. Pick which word you are using by replacing it with its synonym. If you can replace the verb with recline, you are using lie. If you can replace the verb with place, you are using lay.
Lie = rest or recline. You just do it.
I will lie [recline] on the sofa.
Lay = place. You do it TO something.
I will lay [place] the blanket on the grass.
Step 2. Pick the verb tense.
Lie: lie, lay, lying, lain
Today I lie down. Tomorrow I will lie down. Yesterday I lay down. I am/was lying down. I have lain on the sofa for an hour.
Lay: lay, laid, laying
Today I lay the papers down. Tomorrow I will laythe papers down. Yesterday I laid the papers down. I was laying the papers down. I have laid the papers down.
Here is your challenge: correct the usage of the verbs lay and lie in these sentences.
- She said she was going to go to Cancun and lay on the beach for a while.
- Last summer we went to the beach and lay in the sun for hours.
- Just five minutes ago I lay the papers directly on the manager's desk.
- Last month we lay the ground work for our new learning management system.
- Next month we will lay the ground work for new systems to be installed over the next three years.
- He told the dog to lay down.
- The carpenter said he needed to lay a new foundation for our porch.
- Yesterday we solved the problem with our new server. The answer lay in the way we had configured our start-up menu.
- Don't worry about your future, Grasshopper. All of the answers lay within your grasp.
- The geocache lays just 100 yards south of the river.
- These old umbrellas have laid here in the corner for more than a year.
- She could have laid the map on the table, but she chose to spread it out on the floor.
Results of the Apostrophes Challenge
Here are the answers to the apostrophes challenge, brought to you by Denise Kelly:
- The carrots were on sale at the organic market today
- We have two capital letters in IconLogic.
- The word judgment does not have two e's.
- Back in the 1950s writers used a lot more apostrophes.
- How many i's are in your name?
- Many companies find that new hires do not know the three Rs.
- How many alibis does he need?
- Are you still getting tomatoes from your garden?
- Ellie drank two coffees and a tea before the important meeting.
- How many OKs do I need to click?
All of these illustrate the correct and/or modern usage. The most common errors I saw in responses were using the apostrophe with the three Rs and with OKs. Modern usage guides say that capital letters do not need to be italic and do not need the apostrophe when you are making them plural. A number of respondents liked the apostrophe in alibi's. That is one where the dictionary does give alibis as the plural, but personal preference may dictate that the apostrophe makes it easier to read. Thank you to all respondents on this one: Kathryn Meloch, Jimmy Moon, Jason Neilson, Megan Seymour, Lindsey Mayer, J Dicerson, Michael Stein, Minnie Johnson, Jay Herman, Denise Kelly, Jeffrey Mcmayon, Jennifer Dolesh, Audra Lyons, Chris Zimmel, and Linda Tromanhauser***
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