The next in the BE THE EDITOR series was a classic word usage puzzle. Countless of us have succumbed to this devilish English.
The question in the Facebook post asked,
“Where would your red pen guide you in this sentence?”
This is a tricky one! What's the difference between lay and lie? They are two different verbs, and both are in present tense. Let’s look at the two words separately.
Lie is “to tell an untruth” or “to put yourself in a horizontal position.”
If you put yourself in a horizontal position in the past, you lay.
Lay is also in the present tense and is a different word with a different meaning. Lay is “to lay something else down.” That something else always comforts after the word “lay.”
For example, I lay the infant in the crib. The something else that comes after lay is the infant, which makes “the infant” the direct object of the sentence.
If you lay something else down in the past, you laid.
For example, "I laid the infant in the crib yesterday."
In this BE THE EDITOR sentence, the basket isn't performing the act of laying something else down; therefore, we can’t use the verb “lay.”
The edit would simply be as follows: "The basket lies in the grass."
Today, she lays in the grass and writes.
Yesterday, she lay in the grass and wrote.
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.