Common Stumbling Blocks - Peculiar Constructions - Misused Forms.
The transitive verb lay, and lay, the past tense of the neuter verb
lie, are often confounded, though quite different in meaning. The
neuter verb to lie, meaning to lie down or rest, cannot take the
objective after it except with a preposition. We can say "He lies on
the ground," but we cannot say "He lies the ground," since the verb is
neuter and intransitive and, as such, cannot have a direct object. With
lay it is different. Lay is a transitive verb, therefore it takes a
direct object after it; as "I lay a wager," "I laid the carpet," etc.
Of a carpet or any inanimate subject we should say, "It lies on the
floor," "A knife lies on the table," not lays. But of a person we
say--"He lays the knife on the table," not "He lies----." Lay being
the past tense of the neuter to lie (down) we should say, "He lay on
the bed," and lain being its past participle we must also say "He has
lain on the bed."
We can say "I lay myself down." "He laid himself down" and such
It is imperative to remember in using these verbs that to lay means to
do something, and to lie means to be in a state of rest.
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