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Know when to lie and what to lay

Buck's English: Don't lie to yourself — If you don't know the variations of lie and lay, avoid their use.
BY Gene Owens Published: March 2, 2014

You'd think anyone literate enough to write a novel would know the proper use of “lie” and “lay,” but James Clark of Ardmore came across blatant examples of their misuse in a novel about southeast Oklahoma.

He quoted two examples:

“The noise sounded just outside the house where he lie.”

“Kirk saw what lie next to the chest.”

James appealed to Buck:

“Either the author has a problem with the proper use of ‘lay' or ‘lie,' or I do,” he said. “I solicit your help as a referee.”

Well, it's not James who needs help.

The present tense of “to lie” is “lie.” The past tense is “lay.” The past participle is “lain.”

So the noise sounded outside the house where he lay, and Kirk saw what lay next to the chest.

Now the complicated part: There is a near twin of “to lie.” It is “to lay.” Its present tense is “lay,” and its past tense and past participle are “laid.”

“Lie” means “to recline.” “Lay” means to “to put.”

You lay your cards on the table. Uncle Hadacol likes to lie down in the hay. He laid a blanket on the hay so he could lie on it. He lay there about an hour and decided he had lain long enough.

“Uncle Hadacol said he spent the whole afternoon laying tarpaper on the roof of his henhouse,” said Gopher.

“He was lying,” said Floyd. “I saw him sleeping in the hayloft. He was lying there snoring like a buzz saw.”

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