They also get it wrong – Lay vs Lie

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They also get it wrong – Lay vs Lie

This series of posts is dedicated to all you English students who spend hours trying to perfect your English, thinking “I have to speak as perfectly as a mother tongue speaker”, well, guess what, sometimes they also get it wrong.

Are you starting to feel better? Carry on, carry on, the best is still to come.

If you have always wondered how they manage to know and remember all those funny rules and exceptions, well trust us when we tell you that even they get confused sometimes. Obviously not everybody makes the same mistakes, but there are particular things that mother tongue speakers get wrong time and time again.

Here is an example.

Have you ever struggled with LAY and LIE? If so, you are not alone, also English mother tongue speakers have to think hard about this one. Let’s take a look:

TO LAY – LAID –LAID -> to place something in a certain position or on a surface

Lay the book on the table, please.

My son fell asleep so I laid the blanket on him.

The keys were laying on the shelf in front of me, but I still couldn’t see them

TO LIE – LAY – LAIN -> to be at rest on a horizontal surface

Don’t lie in bed all morning!

The dog lay at his master’s feet.

When I walked in, he was lying on the sofa.

The confusion is due to the fact that these words relate to similar actions and that the past tense form of one is the same as the present form of the other! How can you avoid making mistakes? First of all learn the verb patterns (lay-laid-laid and lie-lay-lain). Before using lay or lie stop and ask yourself which one is correct, then decide which tense you need to use (present or past?) and use the pattern you’ve learned. Easy!

And just to add to the confusion, remember there are also:

TO LIE – LIED – LIED -> to make a statement you know to be untrue

LIE (noun) -> a statement you know to be untrue

A little summary…

David: The chicken laid three eggs yesterday, I saw her laying them while lying on the sofa. She lay there all afternoon.

Colette: What are you saying? Don’t lie!

David: I’m not lying, it is the truth. I lied last month, I won’t do it again.

Right, now go out there and show the mother tongue speakers how it’s done!

To wonder – to ask yourself about something

Pattern – a particular way in which something is organised, is carried out, or happens

To struggle – to experience difficulty trying to do something

Hard (e.g. to think hard, to work hard) – using a lot of mental or physical effort

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