LawProse Lesson #255: Lay vs. lie.

LawProse Lesson #255: Lay vs. lie.

Admittedly, the traditional conjugations are more blurred than ever. Mastering them has proved difficult for people. Nevertheless, here goes. Lay is a transitive verb—that is, it demands a direct object {lay your pencils down}. It is inflected laylaidlaid {I laid the book there yesterday} {these rumors have been laid to rest}. (The children’s prayer Now I lay me down to sleep is a good mnemonic device for the transitive lay.) Lie is an intransitive verb—that is, it never takes a direct object {lie down and rest}. It is inflected lielaylain {she lay down and rested} {he hasn’t yet lain down in 23 hours}. In a doctor’s office, you should be asked to lie back or lie down. Further reading: Garner, The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation 288–89 (2016). Garner’s Modern English Usage 553–54 (4th ed. 2016).

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