The Grammarphobia Blog

Don’t lay down your guns!

Q: I have noticed the virtual disappearance of the distinction between “lie” and “lay.” Do I have to put up with this?

A: Of course not! Don’t give up.

This is how I explained “lie” and “lay” in my grammar book Woe Is I (you know this already, but here it is in case you need to instruct others):

Lie (to recline): She lies quietly. Last night, she lay quietly. For years, she has lain quietly.

Lay (to place): She lays it there. Yesterday she laid it there. Many times she has laid it there. (When lay means “to place,” it’s always followed by an object, the thing being placed.)

So hold the fort! Dictionaries are doing so. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) still continue to give the same old principal parts of “lie” and “lay” that our grandparents learned.

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