The genres represented by the writers in my critique group are as varied as our personalities. However, at last week’s meeting, I learned we all had one thing in common—insecurity about using those pesky verbs, lay and lie.
It’s tough for writers to admit grammar weaknesses, but once one person bravely spoke up, like alcoholics admitting their problem in front of a group of peers, we all came forward and confessed. “Hello, my name is Jane, and I have grammar issues with lay and lie.”
Afterwards, I decided to delve into the subject by logging onto the internet in hopes that I could offer some magic “cure” at our next meeting.
From the number of articles written on the topic, I determined the problem was not confined to our little writing group. Confusion is widespread. In some circumstances misusage is even accepted.
For instance "Lay Down Sally," by Eric Clapton should, grammatically speaking, be "Lie Down Sally" and "Lay Lady Lay" by Dylan should be "Lie Lady Lie." Songwriters are obviously given more poetic license with proper usage than the average author.
Lots of sites offered explanations using words like transitive, intransitive, direct objects and so on. Something about these terms causes my brain to glaze over and focus solely on finding chocolate.
I found this helpful hint on Judy Vorfelds Editing and Writing Services site:
“A good way to decide whether to use "lie" or "lay" is to substitute the word "place" (or placing, or placed) for whatever word is in question. If it fits, use "lay" or one of its forms. Otherwise, use "lie" or one of its forms.”
Many sites offered charts, but I liked this simple one from the TriSec Blog:
However, in my opinion, the following picture illustrates the best solution for this problem:
I’m aware that in my blog on literary tattoos , I said I wouldn’t want one, but this has me seriously reconsidering.
The above photo is from the article, “Learning ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’” by Gerald Grow, Ph.D. If you’d like to know how to use lay/lie without depending on hints, charts or tattoos, you may want to pay a visit to this site. Dr. Grow offers a five step approach to mastering their use.
How do you keep lay and lie straight?
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Safire, lay or lie, Clapton, Dylan, Gerald Grow,