Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The True Difference Between "Lay" and "Lie"

A couple of days ago, I wrote Lay, Lie, ESL and TV Shows. "DC" took the time to post a wonderful comment explaining the difference between "lay" and "lie." While this may be lost on me, I wanted to post it for my ESL readers, and others, so that it may be of assistance to you. Here 'tis.

"Dogs lay? People lie? But that's not right. Dogs lie (for example, on a bed or on the ground) just as people lie (on a bed or on the ground). I'm not an ESL teacher, but my professional life is based on a good working knowledge of the language. (I'm a writer, editor and publisher.)

When is "lay" appropriate? It's correct to say a person lays a book on a table. But after he does that, then the book is *lying* on the table. Same with a dog. A dog could lay a book on the table. Then the book lies on the table.

When a dog or a person is asleep in his bed, he is lying in bed. When a book is reclining on a shelf, the book is lying on the shelf. (When a person, or even a dog, places a book on the shelf, he lays the book on the shelf. Then the book is lying on the shelf -- just like a book, if it could fall asleep, might be lying on a bed.)

That bit about dogs laying and people lying is pure confusion. It's lie, lay, lain (reclining, whether you're a dog, person or book) and lay, laid, laid (placing something or someone -- whether it be a book, dog or person -- somewhere). --DC"


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