And the #1 common error is. . .Verbal Abuse: Lie Down with Lay & Related Verb Warps

Polishing Your Prose

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The tenth of a ten-part series.

#1. Verbal Abuse: Lie Down with Lay & Related Verb Warps

 Drum roll please . . . the error I see most often when editing manuscripts concerns the use of the confounding verb lie, which is often confused with the related verb, lay.

Lay vs. Lie

The confusion lies with lay, which has two related yet distinct meanings:

1. lay: to put or place or set something (i.e., an object) somewhere.

Please lay (put) the book on the table.

Please lay (put) the dog down; she doesn’t like to be held.

2. lay: past tense of the verb lie,  to be or remain in a flat or horizontal position, to recline.

He laid (put) the book on the table, and it lay (remained) there for…

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