Today call me laid

Today call me laid but I’m referring to grammar; more specifically to the infinitives to lie and to lay. So if your Google search brought you here for something sexier, you’re in luck. There’s nothing hotter than the proper conjugation of verbs.

(Besides sentence diagramming or an explication of Moby Dick, am I right?)

Forgive me for taking the time to address the lie/lay debacle in a blog post. You’d probably rather read about my crock-pot chicken recipe or how my crippling fear of success leads me to sabotage myself with grammar-related musings.

(Wait, you wouldn’t? Well, okay! To my point.)

I’ve noticed a decent percentage of people misusing to lie (as in “to recline”) and to lay (as in “to place or set”). And since the English language is replete with homonyms and homophones, it’s no wonder there’s confusion among the masses.

Still. As a former English teacher, let me lay it out there:

You don’t tell a dog to lay on its bed; nor do you lay down for a nap or lay out in the sun. In the present tense, the proper conjugation for the infinitive to lie is lie or lies.

So.

I want my dog to stop humping me and lie down so I can lie on my bed to take a nap because it’s only 65 degrees outside which, for southern Californians, is so cold we will not lie in the sun. (Brrr!)

In the present and future tenses, no one lays down to rest.

I lie, you/we/they lie, he/she/it/lies down. Or out.  Or yowsa, this stuff is hot!

Now. Here comes the past tense of to lie to mess with us.

Yesterday, my dog lay by the fire while I lay on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in which the ladies lay on the beach in Hawaii because life is hard.

Yes, indeed. The past tense conjugation of to lie is lay.

I lay, you lay, he/she/it/we/they lay.

Crap, right? Whose idiot idea was this? Maybe the guy who wrote Moby Dick, I don’t know. I do know if it sounds weird, it’s because so many people use it incorrectly.

But what about laid? you ask. And I’m glad you did.

The verb to lay, as in “to place or set,” is unsettling because the present tense is lay and the past is laid.

So.

You can lay your winter coat right there (brrr!) and join me as I lay placemats on the table and fold this laundry I laid on the guest-room bed three days ago.

Did I just blow your mind?

It gets even sexier when we add participles into the mix. Not to mention conditionals and perfects and futures and ohmygodnowondernooneknowswhatherightwordis!

So rather than alienate you completely, I’ll close with a few more of the most common conjugations. Then you can send me specific questions and/or death threats via email, Facebook or twitter.

——-

To lay (as in to place – this verb requires a direct object being set somewhere):

Today I lay, you lay, he/she/it/lays, they/we lay our heads on his chest. (Whose chest? Let’s say Ryan Gosling’s.)

Yesterday, I laid, you laid, he/she/it/they/we laid our heads on Ryan Gosling’s chest. (Because why not yesterday, too?)

Tomorrow, I will lay, you will lay, he/she/it/they/we will lay our heads on Ryan Gosling’s chest. (When is a bad time, really?)

The key is the direct object being laid, or placed. And the object is our heads. And the heads are lucky.

——-

To lie (as in recline – on a bed or a beach towel or the backseat of a car):

We addressed present and past already so let’s skip to the future.

I will lie down on the bed. You will lie, he/she/it will lie down. We all will lie down. Why? Because we’re exhausted by this post.

I/you/he/she/it we are lying down. I/you/he/she/it were lying down. Still with me, yes? Also still exhausted.

Now it gets tricky:

I have lain in the sun for two hours, so I am burned. By noon tomorrow, you still will have lain in the sun less than the cast of Jersey Shore. But he/she/it/they have lain together so many times on that show no one remembers who’s gotten laid by whom.

I know. Completely crazy, right? I mean the verbs. Not the cast of Jersey Shore. They’re awesome. Obviously.

So. Do you all hate me sufficiently yet?

Good. Now let’s talk about Moby Dick…

99 thoughts on “Today call me laid

  1. Pop

    I’m sure your hubs was disappointed when he read the post title only to find that it’s about grammar.

  2. Julie

    I’ll make it up to him with all the sentence diagramming later…

  3. Jeanie

    Brilliant! Grammar princesses unite! How about the difference between subjective and nominative case next? It’s like fingernails on a blackboard when I hear someone say, “…this is for he and I,” yet more people seem to have missed that particular grammar lesson than have remembered it. What’s wrong with [him and] me?!

  4. I cringe every time I hear someone say “lay down and sleep.”

    Also, how the heck did you make a post on grammar hot & funky & sexy?

    I never, ever had to diagram sentences (I had the same English teacher from 6th to 8th grade, and she hated the practice as a kid), but I actually love doing it a little bit.

  5. Just where WAS everyone in 6th grade grammar? Because I was WIDE AWAKE. Thanks for the reminder!! And get that dog off your leg, will you?

  6. Julie

    I was too busy sleeping through math class, so. I can’t complain about anyone’s English skills.

    If I had to complete algebra equations on my blog, I’d curl up in a ball and die. Probably.

    I think it’s gotten more difficult for people because mistakes made often enough begin to sound right.

    Except when Snooki talks. So I’ve heard.

  7. Hey Girl,
    Come on over here and lie your head on me.
    Wait. What? My poor use of grammar has caused you to direct your affections toward Ryan Reynolds?

  8. Cindy

    I love this! Would you be able to dedicate some blog time to the other serious grammar deficiencies such as people always saying “for ____ and I” rather than “for _____ and me” (thank you Jeanie!), and also when in the world did the country completely give up on learning the correct use of an apostrophe, especially when adding an “s” to anything? Apostrophes almost never form plurals! Thanks! Feels so good to get that off of my chest.

  9. Julie

    RG,

    Would you believe I actually debated between you and Mr. Reynolds when deciding whose chest to utilize for this post?

    Or is it who’s?

    Oh crap.

    You’re pretty.

  10. Deb

    See, this is why I WAS awake in math … it’s so much easier than this! And by your logic, shouldn’t the title of this post be “Today call me … lain?” What are you trying to say with it! I’m so confused!

  11. Can you lay out ran/run for me? I seriously change every sentence to running . I will be flooding you with all my grammar questions.

  12. This has to be my favorite grammar post ever. And now I’m wondering if that last sentence grammatically valid because grammar is not my strongest attribute.

    I am curious if the common kid’s pray “Now I lay me down to sleep…” is wrong. I’m trying to justify it in my mind because she is laying her head on the pillow to sleep… Not lying down… F it never mind.

  13. And I just swooned and died over the “Hey Girl” comment.

  14. I feel nauseous. Can you explain that series next while I lie down?

  15. Kir

    I truly need you to come and live with me, and teach me proper grammar. (you can bring Ryan with you 😉

  16. Julie

    Tanya,

    “Now I lay me down” is correct. Because the speaker is “placing him/herself” down. “Me” is the direct object.

    Hooray! We don’t have to change a classic prayer.

    But damn. It’s confusing, right?

    Alex,

    I’ve never actually seen Jersey Shore.

    But I do have nightmares about waking up really tan. Or really stupid.
    Occasionally.

  17. I would have preferred a post about getting laid by Ryan Gosling.

    As long as he didn’t speak. I’m sure his grammer is atrocious.

  18. I am a bit of a grammar nerd, but I admit this one still makes my head spin.

  19. Di

    I would lie, lay, or even sit with Ryan Gosling! Great post, as always!

  20. This is a bunch of lies or lays or laids. I can’t care. 🙂 Grammar bites.

  21. annabelle

    a grammar leason?

    sigh.

    so. let. down.

  22. Oh Julie, you make my heart happy.

    A not so secret secret about me is that I’m fascinated with conjugation. Seriously, i am. This would be a nice little lesson for someone…almost as if an English teacher wrote it…hmm..

  23. OMG,
    I still don’t get “””Lay, Laid, Lie.”””

    I hate it . I get all confused and pissed and disoriented.

    I must write this incorrectly often & I feel utterly STUPID & Idiotic.

    Is this right? “Excuse me while I go get laid?”

    Xxx

  24. Abby

    I just reposted this on my FB page. You are fricking hilarious. And brilliant. Really. Who knew grammar was sexy?

  25. If you haven’t yet, you need to check out this amazing British grammar book: This is the adult version, http://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Tolerance-Punctuation/dp/1592402038 and this is the kid’s version. Both should be on every family’s book shelf.
    http://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Commas-Difference/dp/0399244913/ref=pd_sim_b_7
    Enjoy!
    Dana

  26. Dad

    Julie, the future English/grammar teacher at Lindero Canyon Middle School circa 1980:

    Julie: Dad, when Tammy came to school today she was like, “Mr. Zimring is giving us a test today”, and I went, “I’m not ready.”

    Me: You “went” right there in front of everybody? How embarrassing!

  27. Julie

    Dad,

    And people wonder why I turned out this way…

    “How long is this movie?”

    “About that long.”

    Sheesh.

  28. Christy H.

    Moby Dick sucks, but anyone who uses “lain” properly, is super sexy!

  29. Dad

    Oh, Julie, how quickly we forget. This is the correct sequence:

    What’s the movie on?

    It’s on the screen.

    Well, what’s it about?

    It’s about that long.

  30. Julie

    Dad.

    Surely you can’t blame me for trying to block this out.

    (I know. I know. “Don’t call me Shirley.”)

    🙂

  31. My head just exploded and I need to lay down. Fuck. See?

    There is a reason I was a math major.

  32. …also I was very busy getting laid in high school to care about any of this. (Did I use the right verb?)

  33. KGM

    Great post – I’ll share this one with Amelia and you can quiz her. Can you do commas next?

    Also, I always liked diagramming sentences. It reminded me of math… 🙂

  34. Of all the mistakes I make that Skye e-mails me corrections of, I’m always the most embarrassed when it’s this one. Silly past tense lay, ruining it for all of us.

  35. You had me at the title. Giggled my way all the way through. You DO make grammar sexy!
    Maybe you can have a crack at lose and loose because no matter how many people write about it, it’s still out there – the blatant misuse.

  36. For the love of Moby Dick I was using lay incorrectly. Was that sentence okay? I’ve never been more worried about a comment in my life.

  37. Hee! Oh good, I’m glad that we have that all clear up! 🙂

    Also? You pick the best post titles. The best.

    And one more also? Will you please post the searches that lead people to this post?

    I need to go lay down for my nap now. Hee! KIDDING!

    xo

  38. I don’t know which I love more, grammar lessons from the hottest English teacher I know or comments from her dad.

    Love, love, love!

  39. I just threw up. All these rules AND THEY DON’T EVEN MAKE SENSE!

    I loathe nonsensical rules, unless I’m making them up or unless they involve eating ice cream on the sixth day of the ninth month IF there’s a full moon.

    Also, funny story (she says), I was kicked out of high school English for the entire year. I had to sit in the library and do independent study which consisted of me reading whatever I felt like (which was anything BUT The Scarlett Letter). I think I got a B. Then, the fates frowned upon my same English teacher, who had me for Senior English the next year.

    I made it up to him by excelling in Academic Decathalon, which is ironic since I no longer remember how to spell “decathalon”, and he was the coach, so despite my big mouth and my inability to do any of the assignments, he gave me a B minus. I would say that Extra Curricular Activities saved my academic career, but it sounds rather dirty and the very idea of something dirty with my high school English teacher makes me want to throw up again.

    In summary, I hate you for this. Enjoy my wonton use of English/Grammar.

  40. Dear Julie,

    I love you.

    The end.

  41. I remember when I realized “Lay down, Sally” was gramatically incorrect.

    So I was allowed to legitimately hate that song ever more.

    I heart you.

    But you already knew that.

    I’m forwarding this to my English Department.

    And I think you just became a “helpful link” for my Comp-101ers.

    They be layin’ all over the place.

  42. Who did you have for high school English? Because no one taught me grammar as well as your post just did! Can you please write more grammar posts? Pretty please. It was informative and funny!

    I am going to lie down now.

    XO

  43. Oh, my god. THANK YOU.

    I am usually right on top of grammar, and have that shit down, but for some reason, lie/lay has been the bane of my existence. Seriously. Crazy making.

    You are a star.

  44. Bless you. A while back, I was trying to write a post using “to lay” and I became so confused about how to use it properly that I ended up using an entirely different word in the sentence.

    This post made my brain hurt, but it was a good pain. Like working out (or what I vaguely remember working out being like). Thank you!

  45. I wish you were my English teacher.

    Isn’t the English language insane?

  46. I think I love you. That is all.

  47. Oh, Julie. You make me giggle. Only you could have me on the edge of my seat about participles and dogs and chests and laying and lain.

  48. Can you see me through the computer? I need to go lie down because I don’t think I’ve ever swooned more over a post. Correct grammar makes me happy; simple, complete examples of correct grammar make me giddy.

  49. Eric C

    This was the most common grammar correction made by Nana to me. “No, Grandaddy is not going to lay down he is going to lie down.” God how I miss that woman!

  50. I am seriously book marking (wait-is that an actual verb?) this post to save to refer to-I always hesitate when writing posts where I want to use the word lay/lie, and end up using place/recline instead so I don’t embarrass myself…thanks for the valuable (and well written, as always) post!

  51. You are the coolest English teacher who ever lived. And, almost as importantly, how jealous am I that you’re an episode ahead on RHWoBH? Very.

  52. It’s not possible for me to love you more right now.

  53. oh crap. i effed that up in my book, didn’t I? SO thankful I have the laid nazi on my side!

    xo

  54. NannyK

    I just read the back and forth between you and Dad. Bah! I heart my family! Mom and Dad were SO right to correct (read: hound) is about our grammar when we were young. At least that’s what I keep telling myself as I correct (read: harrass) my boys about theirs.

    And for good measure, we get a lot of mileage out of the absurdity of “like”…among ALL adolescents, and sadly, many adults.

    Jordan: “Winter Formal is going to be at this, like, warehouse.”
    Me: “Is it going to be at a warehouse or a like warehouse?”

  55. NannyK

    Curses. Just checked the spelling of harass. My spelling (without the benefit of spell check)???…like, no bueno!

  56. Mr. Julie C Gardner

    Wow! It’s rare that my google searches bring me to such an educational site. Next time I’ll have to be more specific.

    I used to think I had it down until Snow Patrol released their song Chasing Cars…
    “If I lay here. If I just lay here. Will you lie with me and just forget the world.”
    What?? That’s not helpful.

  57. Julie

    Mr. Julie C. Gardner,

    Were you Googling Ryan Gosling again?

  58. Goodness gracious, my head hurts. I KNOW I have used it wrong tons of times. I’m just glad I happened to get it right in that poem you read. Whew!

  59. liz

    Honest to God, I have always been confused about this, but honest to God, I don’t think I’m any clearer now.

    English is hard.

  60. I thought I had a good grasp of lay/lie/laid/lied and yes, you actually did blow my mind about halfway through! I can’t wait for the Moby Dick discussion.

    If I write a blog post about grammar (and I might!) it will be the its vs. it’s conundrum.

  61. That opening paragraph was killer. You sLAY me, Julie, really. Learn something every time I’m here. Like how Ryan Gosling comments on your blog.

  62. But this still doesn’t explain my “I got lei’d in Wakiki” tshirt. 🙁

  63. I am going to bookmark this for a referral in the future. I wish you taught English at my high school because the kids would love your lessons – I mean Jersey Shore in a grammar lesson? They would go nutty.

    p.s. Whoever left the Ryan Gosling/ Ryan Reynolds comment is hilarious!

  64. I used to be an 8th grade English teacher and yeah, mind somewhat blown. But, like everything else I intend to blame the complete dumbing down of my brain on my children. And, I’m happy to have people like you remind me of this important type stuff. Although now I will probably be fretting all night about whether or not I conjugated said verb correctly in previous posts! And, if this comment makes me look like a buffoon.

  65. Renée at Teachers and Twits is definitely right. This is the best blog of the moth. As I slog through my Latin text trying to reteach myself all the Latin I’ve forgotten, I now realize there is a whole bunch of English that I’ve forgotten as well. Well done. And thank you.

  66. Thank you! I’m one of those wahoos who always got lie/lay confused. This is SO helpful to me. I will love you forever now.

  67. I could not love you more right now.

    I tell my students: you lie yourself, you lay someone else.

    Yes, that is the jumping point for my lay/lie lesson. It gets their attention.

  68. oh also? if you discuss moby dick? I am out of here.

  69. Any teacher who uses dog humping as a example in their lesson has my attention. If you ever need blog fodder, mine is a wonderful resource of insane grammar mistakes. In my defense, a lot of them are due to rubbish typing too 🙂
    Now I must go lie down.

  70. I love this post! And boy does it strike a nerve as I recall trying to learn English when I immigrated (emigrated? You’ll know!) from Poland at age 7. The grammar is all over the place!

  71. I love this post. Honestly, I didn’t think English could be more sexy.

  72. Hate you? Uh, no. I rather love you now. “Lie” with all its variations and tenses, makes me crazy. I’m 58 now and I used to be spot-on with the proper use of everything. Somehow, over the years, I have lost it. A lot of it. And most certainly the proper use of “lie”. I have grammargirl.com on bookmark because of my affliction, but your little class is so much sexier. I am copying this whole post and printing it out and LAYING it on my desk for constant reference. You rock girlie. Thank you. I get the whole your/you’re and there/their/they’re stuff, but this “lie” stuff literally makes me want to LIE down and give up on writing completely.
    Ok….maybe not. But you just added yourself to my list of reference materials, and I will be writing much better because of you. YEAH Julie!!!
    And thanks!

  73. Are you taking requests? Because I need you to do this for the words affect and effect. Hopefully within the next two weeks. Seriously.
    Thanks.

  74. I’m an expert at affect and effect.
    Sadly.(I wish I were kidding.)

    But here’s how I remember them…alphabetically.
    You have to have something AFFECT you (the verb) before you can have the EFFECT (the noun).

    And A comes before E.

    So.

    Everyone is Affected by stupid grammar rules.
    The Effects are widespread.

    Or not.

  75. Clearly I should have paid better attention in school because I knew none of this. But I’ll say it whatever way Ryan prefers.

  76. I love this so much. That is all.

  77. Ehm…eh..I’m sorry what??!

  78. Courtney

    So I love this! But I have to say I will be terribly disappointed if you move on to Moby Dick though. If you stay on this path, you may get a whole new series of readers who were googling for something quite different…

  79. How did I miss this in its inception? I consider myself a fairly decent writer and grammarian, but I will admit to having major trouble with lie/lay/laid. I stumbled a post not too long ago that LAID it all on the line in a way that as almost, but not quite, as entertaining as this. So, I’m stumbling this too, and will no doubt refer back to it often as I’m LYING on my couch writing blog posts.

    Seriously – pure awesomeness, my friend.

  80. I love this! And I love you! (Too much? Sorry.) Love the post title too. 🙂

    I know I use these wrong all the time. And now I have a place that it explains it in a way I can understand, and reference. Which I am totally doing for my post!

  81. ok. thanks. i copied and pasted your example. i still have problems with it though…every time….

  82. So… if we use these right we get laid by Ryan Gosling? Is that what you just said??? Awesome. I better go study… ;-D

  83. Oy Julie! I always get this wrong. ALWAYS! But I guess you are becoming quite well acquainted with my poor grammar skills! (In fact in my self-absorbed head I immediately assumed that it was my grammar -or lack there of- that inspired this post in the first place.) But I digress… I will try to do better. In the meantime you take Ryan Gossling and I’ll take Bradley Cooper and we’ll lay our heads on their chests and not give a crap about grammar at all! 🙂

  84. Ann

    How it must pain you to read 95% of what is on the internet. I apologize on behalf of us all.

    Major props for your mad skills. You laid that shit down!

  85. I was told that you lie down but you get laid. That cleared it up for me! 🙂

  86. Dammit. I thought I had this and now I’ve read the words lay, lie, laid so many times I’m confused. Dammit. or Damn it?

  87. It’s a good thing you didn’t mention Ryan Gosling any earlier in this post. I might not have learned anything. So distracting…

  88. Did I miss this post? How? How, I cry?

    This makes me happy. You know it does. Almost as happy as laying my head on Ryan Gosling’s chest (But not nearly as happy as lying with Ryan, but please don’t tell Mark I said that. It’s our little secret, here on the internet.)

  89. This post was about the exact opposite of the the topic I was expecting.

    Now let me lie down to rest.

    Crap. Is that wrong?

  90. Still don’t think I’ll get it right. 🙁

  91. I thought I’d come back and check to see if I now fully understand this grammar rule, having given it some time to sink in.

    Turns out, no, not really.

    So… good thing I write on the Internet so my grandchildren shall know my shame.

  92. Every time I think about lying down (?) or getting laid or even just think about Ryan Gosling, I will think about this post.

  93. I need to print this out and carry it around with me!

  94. Oh, a post like this is a treat b/c the comments are as awesome as the content.

    I used to be all so sooooper fine with the grammar, but then I got old, or tired…not sure…and then it all just went poof.

    To who knows where.

    Also: Ryan Gossling here? Cougar Tiger Grammar lady mama. xo

  95. Hmmmmm…. someone recently commented on a post of mine and got all worked up over the proper use of this word… was that you?? Was I that grammatically inspiring?

    *swoon*

  96. Aha! I got it right in my post today! I always struggle with this one. Thanks for the clarification and lesson in grammar. No writer wants to have bad grammar! 🙂

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