Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Truth Lies Here

This photo caption is not right as rain, and I couldn't lie around and let it go unnoticed. I had to lay it on the line. So, lie back, relax and enjoy today's post — in which I accuse the writer of lying down on the job.

The error, as you've no doubt surmised, lies within the first sentence. A school bus does not lay on its side, at least not in the present tense; it lies on its side.

Getting the lay vs. lie debate straight can be as difficult as licking your own elbow. (Go ahead. Try it. I'll wait.) I won't lie — I sure as heck don't have it down pat. I know that lay indicates putting or setting something down and takes a direct object (ex: Owen is going to lay Jennifer Love Hewitt on the bed) and that lie indicates a state of resting or reclining and does not take a direct object (ex: Owen is going to lie down with Jennifer Love Hewitt after watching the game), but I have to crack open my AP Stylebook to figure out some of the forms of these two troubling verbs, which are as follows:

lie, lay, lain, lying
lay, laid, laid, laying

Here are some examples of each form:

I lie on the couch all day during Back to the Future marathons. I lay the bowl of chips on the coffee table when I need to get up and go to the bathroom.

I lay on the beach for two hours last weekend. I laid a towel on the sand before my two-hour beach nap.

I have lain in the street for long stretches. I have laid down orange cones so oncoming cars don't hit me.

I am lying in the tall grass. The hunter is laying his binoculars down and picking up his rifle.

Not to overstay my welcome, but I should note briefly that lie has another meaning, with another set of verb forms. When lie means to make an untrue statement, its forms are lie, lied, lied and lying.


When a 600-pound woman asks me if she looks fat, I lie.

I lied about telling the 600-pound woman she didn't look fat.

I have lied twice in the previous two sentences.

I'm lying about having lied twice.

OK, it's time to lay this post to rest. No lie!

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