TO LIE, TO LAY, AND TO LAY
THROWN ONTO THE PAGE AS THEY SPRANG TO MIND
NOT INTENDED TO BE THE FIRST, LAST, MIDDLE,
OR INFALLIBLE WORD ON THE SUBJECT
DISCLAIMER: ANY CONFUSION EXPERIENCED AFTER READING
IS SOLELY THE READER’S PROBLEM
Verb: to lie (to recline)—takes no object
Anne lies on her bed every afternoon.
Anne lay on her bed for an hour yesterday.
Anne has lain on her bed every afternoon since her trial began.
Anne had lain on her bed for just minutes before Henry’s henchmen arrived.
When the clock strikes three, Anne will have lain on her bed for the last time.
Anne is not lying on her bed any longer. She was forever lying there. She lay abed too long. Now she’s lying elsewhere.
Verb: to lay (to put or place something)—requires an object
Anne lays her head on her pillow every afternoon.
Anne laid her head on the block.
We’re too late; the executioner has already laid Anne’s head in the basket.
Henry had laid a trap for Anne before she realized what he was up to.
Henry will have laid traps for several people before he expires.
Henry can’t help it. He’s been laying traps all his life. As we speak, he’s out laying one for poor Jane Seymour.
Verb: to lay (chickens and eggs)–takes an object, but object may be understood
The hen lays an egg every day.
The hen lays, and the farmer reaps the profit.
The hen laid an egg a day for a whole month.
The hen has laid an egg a day for as long as I can remember.
The hen had laid an egg a day before we started feeding her laying mash, and then she upped her production.
The hen will have laid 30,000 eggs before she retires to Aruba.
The hen lies on the chopping block as Father sharpens the ax.
The hen lay on the chopping block for about two seconds before wriggling free.
The hen has never willingly lain on the chopping block.
The hen was lying on the chopping block when the rooster swooped in with a last-minute reprieve from the governor.
Today the hen lays down her life so Colonel Sanders may eat.
The hen laid her head on the block yesterday, and the result was delicious.
A hen has laid her head on the block every day for a year; as a result, we’re short of eggs.
If you ever see an old dog laying on the porch, call me immediately. I want to see the dog eggs.