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Thread: "laid" or "lay"

  1. #1
    Kim Whitlock

    "laid" or "lay"

    Aunt Lila smiled and I was afraid she would take to

    laughing again. Instead, she lay a hand on Claire’s


    or should it be

    Instead, she laid a hand on Claire's shoulder.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Erin McGuire

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    That is a very good question. I've been having trouble with that one myself.

  3. #3
    Happy Soybean

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    Here's a way to remember:

    Lay is to put or place. (Lay that book on the table.)

    Lie is to recline or relax. (I'll go lie in the sun.)

    It gets tricky when you get into all the past tense (the past tense of "lie" is lay).

    I could go on and on with examples, but I'm short on time and must run. Maybe I'll come back later and finish up.

  4. #4
    Mya Bell

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    1. He watched her lay a hand on the child's shoulder.
    2. She lays a hand on the child's shoulder every time he moves.
    3. She laid a hand on the child's shoulder just now.
    4. She will lay a hand on his shoulder if he tries to get up.

    Hmmm. I think this one depends upon the focus in time of the narrator. If it is happening now (from the narrator's point of view), then I believe it is:

    Instead, she lay a hand [as I watched] on Claire's shoulder.

    With the "as I watched" being implied.

    However, if it just finished happening (from the narrator's point of view), then I believe it is:

    Instead, she laid a hand on Claire's shoulder [a moment ago].

    With the "a moment ago" being implied.

    I'm pretty sure that's right. I had to kind of muddle this one over.

    --- Mya Bell

  5. #5
    Jerry Springer

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    "Laid." Past tense of the transitive verb "lay."

    If you don't know this stuff cold, you should.

    -- Jer

  6. #6
    jill smith

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    laid a hand

  7. #7
    Kim Whitlock

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    Thank you all for your help


  8. #8
    Mya Bell

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    Jerry, I agree that it is straightforward that "lay" and "laid" represent present and past, but within the context of Kim's example sentence, it also has to be established whether the hidden narrator, the person telling the story, is witnessing the action (present) or just finished witnessing the action (past).

    In other words, how does the author want to project the position in time of the third-party narrator to the reader? It's a subtle point, I know, but it helps to decide this in advance so that the treatment is consistent throughout the story.

    --- Mya Bell

  9. #9
    Danny Volt

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    Not to circumvent Mya’s consistent and extensive grasp of the language*, but it shouldn’t matter who’s the narrator or when action is happening, at least as far as "lie-lay" and "lay-laid" goes.
    If it’s truly present tense, it’s "she lays a hand" or "as she lays her hand…" No matter the context or tense, "She lay her hand…" is never correct.
    At its simplest:
    If it’s happening right now: "She lays a hand…"; "She lies on the bed…"; "She is lying on the bed"; She lays the book on the table…"
    If it already happened: "She laid a hand…"; "She lay on the bed…"; "She laid the book on the table…"
    Specifically speaking to the original question, any entity that can lie down independently (humans, animals or, I guess, robots), it’s "lie/lying" in the present, "lay" in past. If someone must do the laying (he laid the book down), it’s lay/laid/laying.
    However, there's another tricky part: the book lies on the table, or is lying on the table. It can lie there, and it lay there yesterday. But someone lays it there right now or already laid it there. The book couldn't lie down on its own, but it still lies there.
    Hope this doesn’t make things even more complicated. Lie/lay presents a common language problem that only gets easier if you encounter it often enough. Some people are aware of the rules just well enough that they overcompensate, and want to use "lay" as past tense when in fact they should use "laid."

    *and I’m NOT being sarcastic, Mya. In my short time on this board, I already realize you know your stuff and explain it well. I just had to disagree with this one.

  10. #10
    Nick Dobbie

    Re: "laid" or "lay"

    And then again:

    Johnny knew that Layla was a good lay. But he still wasn't convinced. Pete had told him a story or two, about the first and third time he got laid.

    Layla lied down. She laid on the bed with her arms at her sides.
    "Come and geddit," she said.

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