Wrong Word Wednesday #33

Every week I will demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the one intended. Sometimes this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence. Unfortunately, the mistake is usually so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television

Lay / Lie

Too easily commonly confused. They are both verbs and both mean the same thing but they must be used in slightly different contexts. One is a transitive verb and the other is an intransitive verb. What’s the difference?

Lay – transitive verb meaning that it requires a direct object to follow. You can lay a bed, lay a piece of wood down on the floor
Lie – intransitive verb meaning that no direct object will follow. You lie yourself down

Quick and dirty tips again has a few extra pointers to understand the difference. It also explains how and when things get more complicated in past tense. I particularly like having to remember that:

To say “lay down Sally” would imply that someone should grab Sally and lay her down. If he wanted Sally to rest in his arms on her own, the correct line would be “lie down Sally.”

So the crude term “getting laid” is actually grammatically correct it seems!


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