Thursday, December 22, 2005

You'll lay an egg if you don't lie down while the man is laying bricks!

Lie/Lay...two of the most misused verb forms in writing. Thanks to a note from Michael Parker, I began harping on my favorite grammatical question. Go to this site for more pointers. It's worth a read. I see the words misused in posted AND published poems all of the time. Once you get the basic rules down, you'll never make the mistake again! I promise.

I'm just (lying/laying) around the house listening to music.
Don't know which is correct? Check those rules for sure!

for those of you checking on how I'm going, I'm hanging in. Saw the doc and am dizzily surviving the med so far, but the brain still is swimmy. Resting a lot.


Lyle Daggett said...

The page at the link pretty well sums it up, though I don't entirely agree.

As it happens, I have in fact used "lay" in a poem as a present-tense intransitive verbmeaning "to lie." The sentence in question reads (I've omitted line breaks), "In this hour we lay together in the grass."

Originally I wrote the poem in past tense, and the above sentence originally read (again line breaks omitted), "We lay in the sun for an hour."

Much later, reworking the poem, I decided the poem worked better in present tense. But I liked the sound of "lay" better than the sound of "lie."

That's part of the reason I rewrote the sentence as I did: beginning "In this hour," it stands a chance of evoking present tense before coming to an ostensibly past tense verb.

I gets more complicated. The Webster's New World I checked made the same distinctions between "lay" and "lie" as the page you linked to (and every standard grammar/usage handbook out there). But the dictionary also said that "lay" as a present-tense intransitive verb (as in, "I'm going to lay down for a while") is still in common use in some regional dialects of English.

I think it's become so prevalent that the distinction between the verbs has become less important than it once was. In any case I went ahead and broke the formal rule in the sentence in the poem.

Science marches on. ;~)

Michelle e o said...

Pris thanks for the post. I really needed it. Lyle, sometimes I use what I feel works better with the poem without consideration of what is proper myself. Other times I rack my brain trying to figure it out. I just posted a new poem with the line:
This is not burlap
to lay under.

So if I got the lesson correct it should be to lie under, correct?

As silly as this sounds "lie" always reminds me of ...well. telling a lie. It's one of those eye words for me. Kind of like names that remind you of something.

But I know I want to do this right so I need to understand it.


Pris said...

I would read your usage correctly, since the hour, whichever way you express it, implies the passage of time and so 'lay' would be the form I would choose too. If you just said. 'We lie under the sun' talking about this very moment, lay would jar.

And Michelle

This is not burlap
to lie under

yes, you're right. Lie is correct here and if you use lay, it's going to jar anyone who knows correct grammar since, again, lay in the present tense takes a verb. If I saw the phrase I'd point it out to you, at least. I agree with you that 'lie' does bring to mind telling a lie, but it's still not a good enough reason to use the form incorrectly:-) (of course one could have found burlap that's good to tell lies under, too lol)

Michelle e o said...

lol Pris, glad you're feeling better. At least well enough to joke around =)

Pris said...

Hi Michelle
This med makes me drunk and I'm always a giddy drunk:-)

I'm not a stickler for rules either ordinarily. I try to use them until colloqueal usage makes the 'old' rules obselete. One I'm thinking about in particular is 'never end a sentence with a preposition'. My book on modern usage says that one went out the door ages ago, ie 'who are you going with?' or 'What's this all about?'

The one that's changing now is 'I feel bad', the correct form since bad is an adjective describing 'I', not the sense of touch 'feel'. So many people say 'I feel badly' that there's been a debate about that one among grammarians. Most say that in written form, esp formal writing, that the 'I feel bad' should be used, but in casual speech, 'I feel badly' is becoming more acceptable. On that one, I dunno. I guess I'll keep on saying 'I feel bad' because it feels right to me and I'll keep ending sentences with a preposition when the phrase is convuluted not to, because that feels right to me too.

Speech over. Back down for the count.

btw..i love discussing grammar. Almost as much as eating lobster:-)....well, that's a close call.