Grappling With Grammar
Lay Lie Lain Laid

Sounds like the name of a song, doesn’t it? I confess, this is one that had me confused for the longest time. Lie and lay seem to give people more difficulty than all the other irregular verbs combined. That's probably because the past tense form of lie is lay, making it indistinguishable from lay in the present tense except in usage. You’re already getting confused, aren’t you? Stick with me while I try to explain.

Lie is an intransitive verb. It never takes an object and is followed by a phrase that describes action. Like other intransitive verbs, it may be followed by adverbs, adverbial phrases and clauses describing the how, why, when, and where of the action:
How: The body lay in a strange position. (adverbial phrase)
Why: She will lie down to take a nap. (adverbial phrase)
When: The books have lain untouched ever since I bought them. (adverbial clause)
Where: It seemed best to lie low. (adverb)

Lay is a transitive verb which requires an object and answers the question what:
Please lay the book on the table when you’re done.

The common forms of lie are:

lie and lying (present), lay (past), and lain (past participle)
The common forms of lay are:

lay and laying(present), laid (past), and laid (past participle)
Here’s a trick to help you keep them straight – remember that lie means to recline, whereas lay means to place something, to put something on something.

Here’s a few examples:

Present tense: I lie down on my bed to have a nap.
Present tense: I am lying in bed because I don’t want to get up.
Past tense: Yesterday, I lay there thinking about what I had to do during the day.
Past participle: I remembered that I had lain there all morning one day last week.

Present tense: I lay the book with care on the shelf.
Present tense: I’m laying the book on the shelf.
Past tense: As I walked past, I laid the book on the shelf.
Past participle: I had laid the book on the shelf.

You need to lie down today, yesterday you lay down, in the past you have lain down.

Today, you lay the book on the table. Yesterday, you laid the book on the table. In the past, you have laid the book on the table.

Oh, look, I found a
to test your knowledge! :-)

1 comment:

ardeeeichelmann said...

I won't lie to you. This is one of those rules of grammar that has me tearing my hair out. I got 6 out of 10 on the lay, lie, laid, lain quiz and missed the first four. I just don't grasp it. Sigh!

I will continue to read your lesson and hopefully someday it will all sink into my head. Hope is our greatest ally.