Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Get It Right: Lie And Lay

One of our biggest pet peeves is the almost blatant disregard of proper usage of the words lay and lie. Even native English speakers make this mistake, so let us lay down the rules.

Check the lie of the green and the lay of the land.
Lie

The word lie can be a verb, meaning either to be resting in a horizontal position or to tell inaccurate or false statements. It can also be a noun, referencing the position in which something lies, such as the lie of the green in a game of golf. The noun can also be the aforementioned inaccurate or false statement.

Example: I am going to lie down because I am tired.

Lay

Lay is not synonymous with lie, one cannot lay down in bed. You can lie down in bed. Lay means to place something down. When you lay down a body, it's usually because it's dead and is most certainly not getting back up. Lay as a noun refers to appearance, so you can talk about both the lie and the lay of the green, with the latter referring to its general appearance.
You wouldn't want to lay the table here.

Example: I am going to lay down some cutlery so we can eat dinner.

If you said that you were about to lay down in bed, you were lying about lying and if you can't lie down in your bed it's probably because the lie of the bed isn't right so you should check before you lay your bed down. Confused? No? Don't lie!

Do you have any other grammatical annoyances or pet peeves? Tell us about them in the comments below. We'll be sure to write about them if we haven't already!