It’s time for a long winter’s nap

By · Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

not teaching,
still THINKING …

If you were inclined to recline on a winter’s day, would you lay down or lie down?

An easy way to know — and to be in the know when using these terms — is to remember the definition of each word.

Next, it helps to know the sequence of tenses:

Much of the confusion between “lay” and “lie” happens because the word “lay” appears in both sequences of tenses, though it has different meanings.

Here’s a helpful tip: Focus on the first word in each sequence.

Example: Think of setting out your clothes for the next day before you retire at night. First you have to perform an action (lay) by setting out your clothes; then you have to get into bed by putting yourself in a horizontal position (lie). Remember the “a” in “action” matches the “a” in “lay” and choose “lay” as the action word.

Another tip:

Lastly, you might find these helpful as a model for choosing the correct form of “lay” or “lie” in any instance. Notice the use of “on” and “down” in each sentence.

These two words are among our top choices of “10 Common Usage Errors” in our “Think Like an Editor” book. You can find the rest of the usage errors in Strategy 25: Edit for Grammar.

If you’re going to reward yourself with a long winter’s nap, we believe you should do it in proper style.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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