Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lay, Lie

Finished 15; 29,218 word count.

Writing Tip: I had this sentence in my chapter.
“If he’s going to go to sleep, he has to lay down. Make him lay down.”
There was a green squiggly under the first lay, so I changed it to lie, and my computer was happy. Then I came to the second lay and saw no green squiggly. What's the difference? I confess that lie and lay, set and sit challenge me. I finally got a hold of set and sit, but lie and lay? Oh brother, can I rewrite the sentence so I'm not using either?
Here are two sites that help with this kind of problem: English Plus
and Grammar Girl, Quick and Dirty Tips
English Plus says: Lay is something you do to something else. It is a transitive verb. My characters are going to make him lay down, so I guess that qualifie. Although I might argue that it is the verb make that is transitive. In the long run, I don't know for sure, and that makes me very grateful for copy editors who understand this sort of thing.

PS The consensus of my writing friends is that the second lay should be lie as well.


  1. hmmm... neat tip. I get those two mixed up all the time. It can be very annoying. Maybe I'll check out those websites. :)

  2. Thanks for the websites. I have to check the boys grammar books when I use either one of those words and rethink the sentence through. This pesky English language :-0

  3. I've been seeing a lot of people exchanging "lie" for "lay" recently; this is a place where the English language can easily be muddled. I would agree that both "lays" in the section you posted should probably be "lies," unless you were to say, "Make him lay himself down." Like the children's rhyme, "Now I LAY me down to sleep..." Since they're putting themselves down, it's 'lay'; if they were to take out 'myself', it would be "Now I lie down to sleep."