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Grammar and Usage

Good vs. Well
Less vs. Fewer
A vs. An
Lay vs. Lie

Lay vs. Lie
Lay or Lie?

If you're confused over whether to use lay or lie--if the "transitive vs. intransitive verb" rule seems difficult to understand, the following examples and explanations should help.

In formal writing, people have a tendency to use lay when in fact lie should be substituted. "The patient should lay on his back" is a common lay/lie error.  Someone can lay a patient on his back, but the patient himself does NOT lay there.  He has to lie there.  Why?  Because the present tense definition of lie is to recline, and the present tense definition of lay is to put or place.

The sentence "Please lay the check on the table" is correct, and most writers have no problem with that.  But too many people also believe that "The check is laying on the table" is correct as well.  It's NOT correct; lying is the proper verb for that sentence.

More present tense correct examples:

The baby needs to lie down for his nap.

Lay the baby on the blanket.  



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Formal Writing-- Informal Speech
In informal speech, "I need to lay down for an hour" may be acceptable.  But in formal writing, only "He was told to lie down for an hour" is grammatically correct.

Past Tense Examples
I lay down yesterday. (Lie becomes lay in the past.)

I laid the check on the table. (Lay becomes laid in the past.)