Writing for Business

Mar 23 2010   3:03PM GMT

Has lain or has laid?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The United States has ____ out plans to standardize domestic smart grid development.
a. lain
b. laid

Answer: b.

Here are the rules for lie and lay:

LIE first person third person
present I lie in bed. She lies in bed.
past I lay in bed. She lay in bed.
perfect form I have lain in bed. She has lain in bed.
participle form I am lying in bed. She is lying in bed.


LAY first person third person
present I lay the book down. She lays the book down.
past I laid the book down. She laid the book down.
perfect form I have laid the book down. She has laid the book down.
participle form I am laying the book down She is laying the book down.

Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty lays out the rules for “lay” and “lie” and reports on yet another multiple-rock star grammar fail:

What’s that I hear, music in the background? I know I don’t normally play music, but I love Eric Clapton, and his song Lay Down Sally can actually help you remember the difference between lay and lie… [record screeching sound] because he’s wrong.

To say “lay down Sally” would imply that someone should grab Sally and lay her down. If he wanted Sally to rest in his arms on her own, the correct line would be “lie down Sally.”

We don’t have to judge Clapton on his grammar; we can still love his music and at the same time know that it’s grammatically incorrect! In fact, that helps us remember, and we can love him more.

If you’re more of a Bob Dylan fan, you can remember that “Lay Lady Lay” is also wrong. The lyrics should be “Lie lady lie, lie across my big brass bed.”

The moral of our story is: “Enjoy the music, kids, but don’t look to rock icons — not even the biggest ones — for your grammar lessons.”

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4  Comments on this Post

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  • Stevegs
    What's the difference in the grids? They both reference lie - laid is not listed at all. Is laid not a valid word, then? ********* Thanks for noticing, Steve -- I botched the tables. I'd inadvertently copied the two tables twice and apparently removed the two "lay" tables instead of one of each. I'll fix!
    5 pointsBadges:
  • johnnwhite
    I have absolutely no doubt that this is all convention, not based on common sense--common use of the words. "Lay" should refer to reclining issues, "lie" should refer to truth issues, period. Let's lay this confusion to rest. Be brave and stop the archaic nonsense. Lie is about truth, lay is about bed (and such).
    20 pointsBadges:
  • bermuder
    That's not true at all, John. Lay is transitive (requires a direct object, as in "lay your clothes down"); lie intransitive (no direct object--"lie down").
    50 pointsBadges:
  • TheRealRaven
    @bermuder It's true whenever we choose it to be true. That is. I'm pretty sure that that's what John is advocating. We're adults. If "we" want our language to be rational and consistent, we can make it so simply by changing what we say and what we write... as long as we do it as a group.
    21,845 pointsBadges:

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