Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Grammar Guru

Ah, at last I have a request for clarification! Kate Hofman (who knows the difference) asked if I would review the use of lay and lie. So here it is, along with a story I hope will help to make it stand out in your mind (a useful teaching tool, but if you are easily offended, do not read further).

Lay: to place something or to bring forth, as in laying an egg. Pertains to objects.
Past tense: laid

Lie: to rest in a horizontal position. Pertains to people.
Past tense: lay

Confusion sometimes results from the fact that "lay" is both its own present tense and the past tense of "lie." My mother explained a simple way to eliminate this confusion. She told me to remember that "lay" pertains to objects and "lie" pertains to people and that this is why it is grammatically incorrect to say that someone got laid.

I was a pre-teen when she told me this and it was several years before I understood that she wasn't talking about eggs!


  1. Thanks for the update and new lesson, Miriam!

  2. Interesting way to remember the difference, Miriam. I'm making a note of it, but I doubt I'll forget it. Bet your Mom had lots of similar tidbits! Thanks for clarifying one of many pairs of words that lots of writers out and out avoid because of the confusion they cause.

  3. Thanks, Pat. Yes, Mom was an interesting lady and had her ways of making you remember her "grammar hammer." (With a nod here to Susan Blexrud, who coined this phrase that my brother and I promptly stole!)