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Sunday, 10 February 2013


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Pah! Why waste your time thinking about these American lowlifes, Duffers, when you can enjoy football like this?

Dear Mr Duff, sir,
I don't like to be picky, especially on a fine Monday morning, but I do not like your use of "Lay" in your title line.
I believe that should be "Lie".
I await DM's opinion.
Kind regards
Dame Andra

Ma'am, I sort of grovel, but only sort of, because I am not sure what is the correct usage. Therefore I turn to my trusted edition of Fowler but with the sinking feeling that he will leave me even more confused than when I started!

Straightaway I note this remark of his: "But confusion even between the words 'lay' and 'lie' themselves is very common in uneducated talk" - well, at least I qualify on that one!

Further on he ponders the usage of 'lay' and 'lie' in "the senses of configuration of ground, direction or position" but suggests that the 'lay' bit of it "issued from sailors' talk". Well, we both know from that old sea dog JK that the last thing we want to hear is sailors' talk on a posh blog like this!

However, the essence of the matter appears to be that 'to lay' is transitive only, and 'to lie' is intransitive. Given that I haven't a clue what transitive/intransitive means leaves me in the same state of confusion as when I started.

I'll start the hundred lines now, shall I?

I think it means that to lie back is something you do yourself, whereas to lay back is something you might do to someone else...


Hmmmn! Interesting possibilities, Andrew - any thoughts, Andra, my darling?

Andra is right. So is Andra Duffin: you lie down, but you lay the table, and the chook lays an egg. Klar?

I'm not your darling, but I think you need to look at what you mean to say.

If you want the verb meaning "to place or set down", then you want "lay" (past tense "laid"). Thus, "Lay the fork on the table." "He laid the fork on the table."

If you want the verb meaning "recline", then you want "lie" (past tense "lay" -- there's the confusion). Thus, "Lie back and enjoy it". "He lay back to enjoy it".

Don't know it helps much, but I does my best.

She being a complete layabout, he quickly determined then laid the lady on the table. She just lied there.


More than you wanted to know.

Lie / Lay
Who is lying down – the subject or the object?

Use lie or lie down for an action that a person or animal does by oneself. Lie is an intransitive verb – it does not take an object.

The baby is lying on the couch.


Use lay or lay down for an action that a person does to someone or something else. Lay is a transitive verb – it requires an object.

She is laying the baby down for a nap.
Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

Oh well, that's cleared that up, then.
I think I will lie down, past tense - I lay down.
The chook can indeed lay an egg, I can, should I so desire, lay tiles on the floor, etc.
JK knows of what he speaks. And that's high class Arkie talk right there.

Well, I'm going to go and lie down because my brain hurts!

But seriously, thank you all for your excellent teaching. The shade of Miss Woods, Eng. Lit & Lang., circa 1950-55, looks on frostily, as was her wont, but is nodding approvingly as you succeed where she failed!

That wasn't "Arkie-talk" Andra - rather "sailor-talk."

'She' would be a ship. 'Layabout' means the engine/propulsion system is missing or otherwise out of service. The only person determining anything aboard would be the CO (during my sea-days, no females aboard so...) the skipper ordered the crew to lay an engine.

The 'table' indicates the ship was in shallow water - usually means in port. 'Lie' means the keel is sitting gently in the mud.

Had I used She just lay there woulda meant the ship was too deep to salvage.

It ain't Shakespeare but it gitser done.

JK - I was cruising the beautiful Cairns harbour for 6 or so hours last night on a 30' Bertram - dinner with friends on their boat.
Fish were caught, wine was drunk, food was eaten, merriment was partaken of. Nice!!
I did give a thought for the poor people but only very briefly. Then I decided they're on their own..... they know who they are!

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