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Lie or LayWhich Word Should I Say?

By Donna Rees

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.1
Say what? Lewis Carrolls outrageous poem, Jabberwocky, quoted above, takes
correct verb conjugation to a whole new level, doesnt it?! Hmmmmmm. Well, lets
not waste our time with trying to determine if Carroll conjugated those imaginary
verbs accurately. Dealing with actual English words, especially the words lie and lay,
is enough of a challenge!
As we all know, the English language is constantly evolving and expanding. Consider
this excerpt from The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the
fourteenth century. If you saw this text written on a billboard, would you even
describe it as English?
Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
God bad us for to wexe and multiplye . . . .2
If I saw those words on a billboard, I might assume they were Elvish words from one
of the recent The Lord of the Rings productions! We just dont see words like woot
and doun and myn in modern-day English. Our language is in a state of constant
flux. Heres a modern translation of that textwhat a difference!
For I have never heard, in all my age,
Clear exposition of this number shown,
Though men may guess and argue up and down.
But well I know and say, and do not lie,
God bade us to increase and multiply . . . .3
How many of you would understand the words below, if you saw them displayed on
a billboard:
WRUD? Want 2 go 2 Samz? THT and CM B4 7
If I saw that text displayed on a billboard I would think that a computer must have
gone wacky as the ad was in production, and somehow the printers never noticed! It
looks like gibberish to me, but . . . not to everyone! That is an actual text
message, and here is the English translation: What are you doing? Do you want to
go to Sams Club? Think happy thoughts and call me before 7!
Oh, dear. What is happening to our language? Why do I feel as though the younger
generation has created a mysterious, secret code, most commonly seen in text
messages like the one abovea language I can neither read nor understand!

Im in big trouble. Part of me wants and needs to learn this new texting slang, for
the sake of both efficiency and effective communication with my friends and family
members, but part of me wants to shout: No! No! No! This is wrong, wrong,
wrong! Alas, my shouts are being drowned by the sounds of twinkly smartphone
tones as new text messages, even more cryptic than the one above, arrive in my
digital device . . .
Despite the ever-changing nature of our complex languageand culturesome
words are here to stay, and conjugations of the verbs to lie, which means to
recline, and to lay, which means to place, fall into that category. Unfortunately,
because these verbs somewhat share the words lie and lay, depending on their
use, the wrong word is frequently used, both in print and in speech.
Have you ever wondered which word to use: lie or lay? If you have, and if you would
like to learn a simple way to determine the correct choice from now on, let me share
an easy exercise that will equip you to succeed. Grammar experts could offer you a
far more thorough explanation about this dilemma than I will offer within this brief
article, of course; my goal is merely to equip you with the ability to make the right
choice when/if you are confused about whether to say lie or lay.
To begin this lesson, lets use this sample sentence:
Susan, go ____ (lie/lay) on the bed.
Lie or laywhich word should you say? And why? To select the correct word, simply
mentally put the word recline or the word place in the blank.
1. Susan, go recline on the bed.
2. Susan, go place on the bed.
Which is correct? Obviously, the first choice is correct. Therefore, in the sentence
above, the word lie, which means to recline, to repose, to assume a horizontal
resting position, should be used: Susan, go lie on the bed.
You may easily apply this mental test to any situation in which you are not sure if
the word lie (which should be used in the present tense, by the way) or the word lay
is correct. The tricky part comes when you need to use the past-tense conjugation of
the verb to lie, which is lay. The past-tense conjugation of to lay is laid, not lay.
However, this simple test (substituting the word in question with the word reclined or
the word placed) can successfully be used in those situations as well.
In the sentences below, mentally substitute either recline/reclined or place/placed to
determine which word should be applied. If recline/reclined works, then you would
use lie/lay. If place/placed works, then you should use lay/laid.
Now its your turn to give it a try! Take your time: its easy as pie!
Recline = lie; reclined = lay

Place = lay; placed = laid

1. Yesterday I reclined/placed on the beach as I listened to the calls of the seagulls

and felt the sun on my face.

2. Tony said, Please dont recline/place on my bed; I just made it up, and I dont
want it to get wrinkled!
3. The fat cat purred as it reclined/placed on the hearth.
4. Where did you recline/place my Snickers bar?
5. Janet told Terry to go recline/place down for at least thirty minutes.
6. After I reclined/placed the mail on the desk, I reclined/placed my purse on the
chair and reclined/placed on the couch for a few minutes.
7. As Tyler reclined/placed on the hospital bed, gasping for breath, the nurse
entered the room and gently reclined/placed an oxygen mask on his chest as she
said to him: Tyler, try to take slow, deep breaths. I am going to recline/place this
oxygen mask on your face and then carefully stretch an elastic band over your head,
to secure it.
8. Grandma and Jennifer reclined/placed in the meadow on their backs and watched
the clouds skip merrily through the sky.*
Additional meanings for the words lie, lay, and laid exist, but in our daily
conversations and writings, we most frequently use the verb that means to position
ones body horizontally (to lie) or the verb that means to put or to place
something (to lay). After you have learned how to successfully use these two verbs,
mastery of the proper application and conjugation of the verb to lie, meaning to
state something that is untrue, and the verb to lay, which can mean to bring
forth eggs or to wager or bet or to apply oneself vigorously or to deal or aim
blows vigorously4 can be acquired easily.
I hope that this simple lesson will help you lay aside confusion associated with the
proper use of lie and lay. All it takes is a little want to and some patience. You can
do it!
*Answer Key: (1) lay (2) lie (3) lay (4) lay (5) lie (6) laid, laid, lay (7) lay, laid,
lay (8) lay

1. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll,
www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/jabber/jabberwocky.html, accessed September 26,
2. The Wife of Baths Tale, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?
1400), Original Text, classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/gchaucer/bl-gchau-canbath.htm, accessed September 26, 2012.
3. The Wife of Baths Tale, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?
1400), Modern Translation, classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/gchaucer/bl-gchaucan-bath.htm, accessed September 26, 2012.
4. dictionary.reference.com/browse/lay, accessed September 27, 2012.
Effect or Affect?

Confused about when to use effect and when to use affect in a sentence? These
words are often used incorrectly too, but a little knowledge and a little patience can
alleviate that problemat least in your writing and speech.
Effect is most often used as a noun. Yes, it can also function as a verb, but that
usage is rare, so well concentrate on its more common usagea noun meaning
result or outcome or consequence.
Examples of the proper use of the word effect:
The effect of the drug was obvious immediately.
What is the effect of adding vinegar to baking soda?
The injured athletes determination and perseverance had an awesome effect on
the entire team!

Affect is a verb meaning to influence. (Yes, this word can also function as a noun,
but that use is restricted to terminology related to the field of psychiatry.)
Examples of the proper use of the word affect (used in sentences that are similar,
but different than, the sentences above; notice their different roles in language):
I wondered how the drug would affect him, but within minutes I saw the results.
Would adding vinegar to baking soda affect the chemical composition of either
The athletes determination and perseverance affected the team dramatically!
Perhaps this simple explanation will have a profound effect on your understanding of
these terms, which will positively affect your future communication!
To simplify the lesson further, at least for those of you who are visual learners,
consider this visual trick: Think of the word effect (a noun) as a building; visualize
the word affect (a verb) showing action, like this:


A-A-A-A-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-e-c-t . . . . . . .

(Tall and stately and stiff, a thing, a noun)

quickly, indicating action, a verb!)


Donna and her husband Timus were blessed with the privilege of educating both of
their children at home (19831999), depending daily on Gods grace for wisdom and
strength. They take great delight in encouraging families who are currently enjoying
that adventure!

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally
appeared in the December 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, the family
education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on
the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on
your mobile devices.