.. LAY and LIE, LAID and LAIN
- From: "JMK" <sesamoid96@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 6 Feb 2006 07:19:26 -0800
Below is an attempt to look at,
and learn, the complete story behind
LAY/LIE using materials found in
the google archive of A.U.E..
Any illuminating help developing
the story is appreciated. Interspersed
are questions that I have about these
verbs. As I've put alot of work into
this, please reward me with only very
meaningful, very proper, answers and
= = = START
There are two words in the English
language, lie and lay, that are
constantly mixed up.
Lie means to rest or recline, be
situated, be in a horizontal position.
Lay means to place or put, to put
After you lay (place or put) something down,
it lies (rests or reclines) there.
The problem is almost always people using
lay/laid/laid when lie/lay/lain is wanted.
Unfortunately, the lain crowd is dying off
and laid is making inroads everywhere.
To users of BrE, confusion of the two
seems distinctly substandard, not just
informal or colloquial, and something
foreign learners need to be warned about.
The object is "lying on the floor",
Can someone tell me if it's, "The book
is lying (or laying) on the floor"?
not "laying". The object might have been
laid there by someone. It is helpful
to consider movement. Something lying
does not move. It lies still. Someone
laying <an object>, is performing a
movement of some kind. The book didn't
place itself there (maybe it fell on
the floor?), you laid it there.
So one has to lay *something*.
"Zy laid" doesn't make sense, (unless
one goes out of zr way to construct a
situation where it does. "The suicide
counselor said 'Shoot or lay the gun
on the table'. Zy laid." That makes
sense but it still sounds terrible.
Who can blame people for getting confused?
Especially in view of the fact that many
verbs in standard English double as transitive
& intransitive. You stand a toy soldier on
the table, and it stands there. You lay it
there, and it...
Lie is only intransitive.
The toy soldier lies there.
The book lies on the table.
Camelot lies over yon hill.
I lie on this bed most nights.
The squirel lies on the branch.
She lies there without a blanket.
Why don't you lie on the sofa?
Why do zy lie there so still?
Let's lie down here and make love.
You mean, LIE down on the examination table!!
The fork lies in the back of the drawer.
A subtle strategy lies behind such silly claims.
The headless chicken lies on the butcher block.
The envelope lies on the table unopened.
Sometimes I lie down for a few minutes.
First he lies without moving for a few seconds.
Zy lie about and are lazy.
When I lie down, I fall asleep.
Lay is transitive, lay takes an object,
except in a few special uses.
Why don't you lay it on the bed?
Lay that pistol down.
Lay an egg.
Lay your head on my shoulder; then your head
will lie on my shoulder.
Zy told me to lay it down, and I laid it down.
Please lay the table.
The third drink always lays me out.
-----What are the *few special cases*
But 'LAY' is not only the present tense
of "to lay" meaning to place or put but
also the past tense of 'to lie' when it
means to recline or rest, because LIE is
an irregular verb.
Zy lie on the floor.
It lies on the bottom.
Zy lay on the floor all morning.
Zy have lain on the floor before.
Zy are lying on the floor
I lie in bed when I talk on the phone.
The phone lies on the bed when unused.
I lay on the couch and lied on the phone.
I was lying in bed when zy called.
I have lain on my bed for hours talking.
Today I lie looking up at the clouds
Yesterday I lay looking up at blue sky.
I have lain on many a soggy mound of grass.
You laid the book on the table, then it
lay there for several days.
Last night I lay on this bed.
I lay down for a few minutes, and then
it was dark.
The fork lay in the back of the drawer.
A subtle strategy lay behind such silly claims.
The book lay on the table.
The headless chicken lay on the butcher block.
The envelope lay on the table unopened.
I lay down for a few minutes, and the
next thing I knew it was dark.
He lay without moving for a few seconds.
The body lay in the house.
Zy lay in bed until midday.
Zy were sick, and lay in bed for two days.
When I lay down, I fell asleep.
But when you see
*** The napkins lay on the table.
*** Dirty dishes lay on the table all night.
*** Zy lay without moving for a few seconds.
*** Zy lay on the floor all morning.
*** Zy lay down with a sigh of relief.
You can't know whether it is right or not
unless you know what tense it is supposed
to be. If it is supposed to be in the past
tense, then it is right. But if it's
present, then it is otherwise.
Take no notice of Bob Dylan. Lay Lady Lay
is an invocation to a chicken to produce
-----What are other great song
examples of proper or improper
Hens lay eggs while lying in their nests.
When a hen cackles, but there is no egg
lying there, the hen is lying
about her laying. If an egg lay in the
nest, the hen did not lie, but laid
instead. A hen should lay and not lie, and
an egg lying in the nest will
show that the cackling hen is not lying.
"Only a week or so ago I was posting about
wishing I'd kept a copy of the Greek 'Grivas
English Grammar' circa 1983. That featured
a hilarious passage that started something
like 'having lain/laid down her pen, Maria
laid aside her work and lay down on the
chaise longue' and went on in similar vein
for another 500 words or so."
What might make this more difficult
is translating to the past, so
that you laid your dress on the chair
and lay down on the bed and lay
near the pillows while I prepared to lie
with you so that we might lie together
for the night. Then you had laid your
dress on the chair, and had lain down on the
bed and lain near the pillows, after which
I lay with you and we had lain together for
the night. If you laid down on the bed, that
would completely change the story.
---- Is this a reference to the
down feathers of birds being laid
on the bed?
It may be unambiguous, but it is objectionable.You have to lay someone or something.But since you can lay yourself down,
Otherwise, it just lies there.
an expression such as "I'm going to lay
down for a while" can be considered an
elipsis for "...to lay [myself] down",
and therefore unobjectionable. Especially
since there is nothing ambiguous or
unclear about it.
"I can't help thinking that the
current confusion amongst many over
lay/lie is because English has the
intransitive verb 'to lie down'. In
almost all other European languages,
the verb is something like 'to lay
You've been told that 'lie' is intransitive
and 'lay' is transitive, which is true, but
isn't always helpful by itself. More important
is the fact that 'lay' is the Causative of 'lie'.
That is, it means "cause to lie", and therefore
has to have an agent subject and a patient object
which the subject causes to be in a (perhaps
only metaphorical) reclining position.
'Lie down' is a stative or inchoative
intransitive, meaning 'recline'.
'Lay down' is a causative transitive, meaning
'cause to recline'.
Lie down with dogs and rise up with fleas.
Lay down your arms and put up your hands.
Good parallels to lie/lay are two other pairs
based ultimately on the position of the human
body, sit/set and rise/raise.
lie - lay (cause to lie)
rise - raise (cause to rise)
sit - set (cause to sit)
As you can see, there's a vowel change in
all of these; the vowels in rise/raise are
the same as the ones in lie/lay, so if you
don't have any problem distinguishing 'rise'
from 'raise', you can use that as a mnemonic
for using 'lie' and 'lay'.
'Lay' is a regular verb,
and its past tense is just what you'd expect
it to be (though it's got a couple of
spelling wrinkles due to the 'y'):
Zy laid down zr life for zr friends.
If it helps, rise/raise and sit/set work the
same way as lie/lay; these three pairs of
intransitive vs transitive form a natural
class of verbs that basically refer to the
normal positions of the human body (vertical,
seated, prone), which are projected
metaphorically onto just about everything:
rise = come to be up
- irregular: rise, rose, risen
raise = cause X to be up
- regular: raise, raised, raised
sit = (come to) be in a seated position
- irreg: sit, sat, sat
set = cause X to be in a seated position
- irreg: set, set, set
lie = (come to) be in a prone position
- irreg: lie, lay, lain
lay = cause X to be in a prone position
- reg: lay, laid, laid
Note that "the lay of the land" is
lay (n), not lay (v), and that's
a completely different usage pattern,
especially when the verbs occur
in pairs, as they do with lie/lay,
sit/set, rise/raise. With the verb,
one would say "how the land lies".
Is it "the foundation has been laid,"
or " the foundation has been lain"?
"Laid", not "lain". You lay a foundation;
you don't "lie" a foundation.
The past participle of "lay" is "laid";
the past participle of "lie" is "lain".
6. I've xxxlainxxx awake all night
worrying about who to ask to the prom.
--- Shouldn't this be *whom*?
To recline supine:
Today I (lie) on the ground looking up at theclouds
Yesterday I (lay) looking up at blue sky.
I have (lain) on many a soggy mound of grass.
To put or set down:
Today I (lay) bricks with the three little pigs.
Yesterday I (laid) the foundation.
I have (laid) all the plans I needed.
The horse laid its ears back.
I laid the table.
Zy laid zr shoes on the bed.
Zy laid zr case before the tribunal.
Zy laid zm down gently on the sofa.
Wheat is laid flat by the wind and rain.
"My mother, who was otherwise fairly
good at English, had the rather
curious notion that "lie" was reserved
for humans, so that a person would
lie on a bed but a dog would lay on
"As far as 'lay' and 'lie' are concerned,
less informal registers generally prefer
'lay' for transitive use and 'lie' for
intransitive use. However, 'laid' is nowadays
often preferred to 'lain' as a past participle
of 'lie' -- e.g. anyone watching Look North
this weekend would have heard both the
on-scene reporter and the studio newscaster
telling us that police thought that
"the body had laid in the house for at
least three days".
Use of 'laid' as a *preterite* of 'lie'
hasn't quite gained this ground yet, I don't
think (i.e. the news reporter probably
wouldn't have said "the body laid in the
house..." but rather "...lay in the house").
It is useful to think of TO LAY as a verb
that takes an object; the verb TO
LIE does not. Thus, their various forms
are as follows:
Zy lay carpet for a living.
Zy laid carpet for a living.
Zy have laid carpet for a living
Zy are laying carpet for a livng.
The carpet lays on the floor.
Zy lie on the floor.
Zy lay on the floor all morning.
Zy has lain on the floor all day.
Zy are lying on the floor
He lies on the floor.
So, tonight, when your big hairy mutt
jumps all over you when you walk through
the door, you won't tell zm to LAY DOWN
because there is no object to lay;
you'll tell zm to LIE DOWN! (AND, being
the grammarian zy are, zy'll obey.)
The sentence is "How long has the
letter been (A.lied B.laid C.lain
D.lying) there on the desk?".
D is the required choice.
The ''personal will' idea is useful - a
baby could lie on a cot (itself) or be
laid on the cot - ie the mother could
lay the baby on the cot.
Case D is the only form in common use to
ask the question about the letter in time
(how long it has been [lying] there)
without citing to the earlier action
of placing [laying] it there.
B is gramatically correct but may not
make sense to everyone. Let's say the
letter was lain on the table 8 days
ago, so it was laid on the table a
week ago. Was it still laid on the
table the following day? Yes,
grammatically, but with the word
"lay" people don't look at it that
way so much. They concentrate on the
act and the time of the act, which
was over a week ago.
This is even more true with the
verb drop. I dropped the glass dish
a week ago. The dish was dropped a
week ago. Was it still dropped 4
days ago. Well after three days, someone
probably swept up the pieces, but on the
other hand, maybe once it is dropped
it is dropped forever?? No one would
use the word that way.
On the other hand, if one drops a
lawsuit, the lawsuit remains dropped
forever or until the suit is refiled.
What about "The egg was cooked 7 days
ago." Is it still cooked six days
ago? Yes. What if it was hard-boiled
7 days ago and you eat it 2 days later.
Is the egg cooked when you eat it? yes.
After you eat it? It's hard to find
the egg after you eat it.
When the coffin has been lain on
the catafalque, XYZ happens.
Surely not? That would be "laid".
"Laid" is the perfect participle of
"to lay", "lain" is the perfect
participle of "to lie". "Zy had
lain there for several hours before
the rescuers found zm" - though "had
been lying" would usually be more
I laid the book on the desk, but
after I laid the book on the desk,
the book lay on the desk.
We laid down a brick pathway to
We lay down together afterwards to
see if it was even.
We have often lain down together
on our pathway since then.
We find it a good place to get laid.
Zy laid (not lay) the newspaper on
The table was laid for four.
She often lies (not lays) down after lunch.
When I lay (not laid) down, I fell asleep.
The rubbish had lain (not laid) there a week.
I was lying (not laying) in bed when zy called.
A fallen hero lain among heros.
"Zy were hoping to be laid, but the wus
drank too much."
"He has laid ladies such as this one before
with no problem".
Zy were laid to rest among the
pontiffs from centuries past.
Vatican ushers seated dignitaries who
were given a chance to view John
Paul's body before it was carried out
of the basilica - where it has lain/lain
in state since Monday - and into the
Lay/lie face down on the bed now.
"As I laid zm on my bed, zy laughed."
Also, I am lying in the sun.
And they were laying bricks in the sun.
Zy are now doing this full-time I
think, ever since getting laid off.
PLACED can never mean LAIN in good
grammar (lay, laid, laid). "Placed in
bed" is a synonym of "laid", not "lain".
***My boss so far has not lain (laid?)
down the law.
***Carlson's remains had laid/lain unknown in
a nearby field since he was listed missing.
***Carlson was laid to rest alongside
hundreds of others who lost their lives
in the war.
***You could do the doodling on a piece
of vinyl laid over the graph paper.
***The author hasn't laid a
proper foundation for the story.
***It was a checkered tablecloth
laid out complete with food and wine.
***I have often laid/lain awake at 2 a.m.
saying "oh sleep, where are you??"
***the prophecy was falsified the moment
"the first Roman brick" was laid upon
the Phoenician isle.
***The dog has lain down to eat its
food for three years.
***He then LAY down next to her.
***The robot arm lays the sheet metal
in the press for stamping.
***Don't just LAY it down any old where.
***The wallet had lain on the pavement
all morning unnoticed.
***They are lying about which girls they
have lain with.
= = = = END