We’re starting off our grammar tips and tricks with a toughie: lay vs. lie. It’s one of those things I always have to turn back to, no matter how many times I go over it. I feel like I know it, but I still question myself.
Here’s what the 2009 AP Stylebook has to say:
“The action word is lay. It takes a direct object. Laid is the form for its past tense and its past participle. Its present participle is laying.
Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane. It does not take a direct object. Its past tense is lay. Its past participle is lain. Its present participle is lying.
When lie means to make an untrue statement, the verb forms are lie, lied, lying.”
What the hell does that mean?
Since present-tense lay takes a direct object, it’s a verb that is done to something. Think about what you tell someone after a wild night of partying:
(Or maybe you didn’t, and you say, “I didn’t get laid.”)
You. Got. Laid. It’s something that happened to you. Ergo, it takes a direct object, and lay/laid/laying is the correct verb. Even if you didn’t have a crazy night, you’d never say, “I got lay.” That’s just ridiculous.
(Credit: My friend Taylor. She told me that AP Style trick in one of our freshman journalism classes and it’s stuck with me ever since.)
Lie is a little bit trickier, just because people tend to use lay interchangeably for it. I could say that saying, “I lay on the beach today,” sounds ridiculous, but it doesn’t. Not really. Because it’s something people say all the freaking time.
To follow our raunchy theme, you get laid, but you lie together.
Still unclear? Comment and tell me know what needs to be straightened out. We’re tackling punctuation tips next time, so let me know if you have any suggestions!