While the English language is not particularly as complex as some languages like Mandarin, Japanese, and Navajo, some words confuse. Words such as ‘advise’ and ‘advice’ or ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ can be daunting to tell apart, even for the most educated people. It is even worse because the English language is changing with each new generation. It is constantly evolving to adapt to the needs of users. The evolution is not a bad thing because, thanks to technology, everything else is changing. So, as the needs of language users continue to change, the language will as well.
We are living at a time when most people can hardly differentiate between laying and lying in the bed.
‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb that shows action. The subject is engaging in an action, but this subject has no direct object. Simply put, to lie does not express an action done to anything. To lie also means to rest or to recline.
‘Lay’, on the other hand, is a transitive verb that describes actions that are being done to something. These always have a direct object. It also means to place or put.
Laying Or Lying, Why Are They So Difficult To Distinguish?
The difference between lie and lay might seem easy enough, but often it is not. The confusion is mainly brought by the fact that the past tense of ‘to lie’ is ‘lay’. This is spelt the same as the present tense of the verb to lay. The past participles of the two also cause more confusion because most people are not familiar with them. The past participle of lie is ‘lain,’ and it is confused with ‘laid’, which the past participle is of ‘lie’. Since lain is unfamiliar, people normally use laid as a past participle of both verbs creating even more confusion.
Examples That Help Explain Better
“Every night, we lie down and rest for eight hours.” This verb means to recline or put down. The only time lay is used in a sentence to mean to recline is when it is used in the past tense.
“He lay on the tanning bed and relaxed”. Here, this sentence is describing a reclining that has occurred in the past and thus, we use the past tense of the verb to lie which is lay.
“I remember laying my car keys here on the kitchen counter”. This sentence is about placing keys on the table, and since there is a direct object (the keys), then we use the verb to lay.
The main mistake people make is using the verb to lay, especially the word laid when they need to use the verb to lie.
“I am going to lay down and take a nap”. This should be “I am going to lie down and take a nap”.
“He laid in the hammock and read a book”. It should be “he lay in the hammock and read a book”.
Some people simplify this by saying ‘people lie on their bed’ and ‘chicken lay eggs’. But, this is not always the truth. Chicken can equally assume a flat position just as people do. This trick will only work for people who lay in the past.
Therefore lay is not for referencing animals and inanimate objects. These verbs have nothing to do with whether the verb is human or an inanimate object. The difference lies in whether the action performed by the verb is transferred to something else. So check whether or not the verb can take the direct object.
How You Can Avoid Making Mistakes with These Confusion Words
When you are writing, you must use the right work and in the proper context. Choosing the right words when speaking and writing makes a good impression on people in addition to helping you improve your vocabulary. It will also reduce confusion and improve clarity. Here are several methods you can use to avoid confusion and use words correctly.
Use a Dictionary
Ensure that while you write, there is a dictionary close by. The internet has made things easier today, so you have access to one right on your phone. In fact, you can download a dictionary app and use it even when the internet speeds are low. Use the dictionary to find out what the word means and how it can be used.
Have a List of Words You Confuse
When you notice a pattern of words that you often confuse or misuse, you should have that list. Keep that list close by and consult it when you are writing. Check and proofread your work before you submit your work.
Study the Lists of Confusing Words
You also need to know other words that are confused often. You may not be aware of certain words. You will save yourself unwanted confrontations by readers when you write words you didn’t mean. Some words, said a certain way, are offensive.
When you see that certain words are too confusing for you, you may want to find less complicated synonyms that you can use. These synonyms will still get the message across and ensure that your writing makes sense. Readers will find it easier to understand and be captivated with your writing.
So do we lay or lie in bed? Well, the answer is both, depending on the tense you are using. In the present tense, we lie in bed, but in the past tense, a person lay in bed. Lying could also be used when a person is telling an untruth. Once you know how to use both words in their right tenses, your vocabulary will improve.