Day: January 14, 2022

WRITING TIP – LYING/LAYING #amwriting #writingtips

A very quick tip today – regarding one of the most common errors I see in the manuscripts I edit, confusion over the verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’.

These words are probably the ones that are used incorrectly the most in the writing projects I’ve worked on. If you get confused about the correct forms to use, it might be worth keeping a note close to your work space – even a post-it stuck to your computer screen.

It works like this:

‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb – it doesn’t require an object; it means ‘to recline’.

Its principal parts are:

‘lay’ (past tense – and probably the cause of most of the confusion)

‘Lain’ (past participle)

‘Lying’ (present participle)

Jane lay down on the bed for a nap half an hour ago.

She had lain in bed all day.

Jane was lying on the bed. She had been lying there all day long.

‘Lay’ is a transitive verb – it requires an object; it means ‘to place’ or ‘to put’.

Its principal parts are:

‘laid’ (past tense)

‘laid’ (past participle)

‘laying’ (present participle)

 The chicken laid an egg.

The chicken had laid an egg.

The chicken was laying an egg.

If you lay a book on a desk, it is now lying there NOT laying there.

When you go on holiday, you may spend time lying on the beach NOT laying on the beach (unless you are a chicken and you’re laying an egg on the beach).

If you lie down on the sofa to watch TV, you might spend the evening lying there – you DO NOT lay on the sofa and spend the evening laying there, unless, again, you are a chicken.

If there is an egg on the ground, it is lying there. If the chicken is involved, she may be laying the egg on the ground.

To add a bit more confusion, ‘lie’ also means to tell an untruth. Its past participle and past tense form is ‘lied’ and its present participle form is ‘lying’.

She had lied too often.

He lied to me.

Stop lying to me.

He was lying to me.

A word of caution – don’t always trust the spelling and grammar check – it sometimes gets confused too!

Happy writing!

I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English. 

I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.

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