Lying Abed, TR Lays Down the Law. No Lie!

My grammar review class ends tomorrow, to be followed by Fundamentals of Copyediting.  That’s right, I’m going to learn how to make all those mysterious squiggly marks that tell the writer what she’s done wrong.  Though I think it quite possible that I will never copyedit anything on paper.  Track changes, FTW. 

I can’t believe I used the not-even-hip-anymore phrase FTW.  If I were myself, I would copyedit that right out of here.

As you might have surmised from the title, it’s time you people learned the difference between lie and lay.  You have no idea, do you?  You guess, or use the one that sounds right to your (unreliable) ear.  Yeah.  I’m talking to you.

Let’s start with the infinitive, shall we?

To lie means to rest, or to recline.

Go lie down; I’ll make lunch.

To lay means to put, or to place.

Lay that ceramic elephant on the table, please.

Here’s an easy rule: to lay takes a direct object.  You must lay something somewhere.  To lie does not take a direct object.  You can just lie there, it’s ok. 

The other meaning of to lie, which is to tell a fib, doesn’t seem to give anybody trouble.  (The act of lying, in the prevaricating sense, doesn’t seem to bother anybody either.)  So just forget about that for now.

With me so far?  Good.

To complicate matters a wee bit, the past tense of lie is lay.  Don’t blame me, I didn’t make up this language.

As I lay dying, the dog whined to go out.  Stupid dog.

The past participle of lie is lain.

I have lain in this tub so long, my skin resembles a prune.

Ok, switch verbs.

The past tense of lay is laid.

Clarissa laid the ceramic elephant gently in the box.  She wanted to mail it to Tahiti.

The past participle of lay is also laid.

Joseph has laid the gun down, preferring a more peaceful life.

Note that laid, like lay, takes a direct object.  (BUT, when lay is being the past tense of lie, it does not take a direct object.)

Got it?  Don’t you feel better now?  I do.

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22 thoughts on “Lying Abed, TR Lays Down the Law. No Lie!

  1. I used to love grammar class…this post brought back how complicated everything can be πŸ™‚ After I hear bad grammar for so long, then I can’t remember what is right and what is wrong.  Know what I mean…Oh there are some things that make my head spin but for the most part..it can be confusing… My big one is when to take or when to bring…take/bring…will you share some rules….

  2. My daughter tells me that here in Virginia, you don’t lay things down, you “set” them down.  What do I know?  I’m what they must call a Yankee.  And I ain’t lyin’.  πŸ™‚

  3. I agree with Barn Bear… Horrible.  Only not language police, but GRAMMER POLICE!  I understood and probably used these correctly most of the time before I read this, but now, I simply must avoid them, and learn esperonto or something less complicated.  My head is swimming and I must go Lay down now, or is that lie down now.  aaaaaaaaaaagggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Make it stop!  The voices,  the people the people……..

  4. @Barn_Bear – Much controversy swirls around that question.  AP style uses “copy editor.”  The Chicago Manual of Style uses the word “copyediting,” but then dodges the question by referring to the person who does it as a “manuscript editor.”  The Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary (the preferred dictionary of copyeditors) lists “copy editor” as two words, but, oddly, lists “copyreader” as a single word, and defines it as “copy editor.”  Meanwhile, the Gregg Reference Manual explicitly gives the writer permission to close spaced compound words if the inconsistency (as between “copyedit” and “copy editor”) may distract the reader.  I hope this is clear now.

  5. Why on earth didn’t you become an English teacher?  You could be getting paid to drive people crazy.   Instead, you choose to  lay it all over your innocent Xanga friends. 

  6. I actually don’t feel better at all, I think I should go lay myself down, ha ha ha ha ha!Oh, and your new profile pic TOTALLY threw me for a loop.  As Eowyn would say, I yike it!

  7. Paper?  People still write and edit on paper?I had to go look up “FTW.”  Should it worry me that I’m only just learning about this phrase, now that it’s post-hip?  I need to go lie… er… lay… um… maybe I’ll just sit.

  8. I knew somebody would beat me to it.  It was ColdSkivvies.  I usually lie down to get laid.  This is so funny; I was just thinking about this EXACT SAME SUBJECT this morning, before I read this.  My writing prof got a huge kick out of explaining the differences.Good job, as usual.

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