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  • There are some verbs in English that some people find confusing.

  • And I think near the top of that list is "lie/lay."

  • So let's outline the problem. We have one verb that is intransitive--that would be "lie."

  • So: "Today I lie down; yesterday I lay down." Then we have "lay," which is transitive.

  • In other words, it can take an object. So we say, "Today, I lay the book down; yesterday

  • I laid the book down."

  • What's so confusing about these two is that the past tense of one ("lie/lay") is the present

  • tense of the other, ("lay/laid"). How did that happen?

  • Well, that happened because these two verbs are actually historically related to each

  • other. If we go all the way back to Old English,

  • we see that there are two kinds of verbs. There's one kind of verb that forms the past

  • tense by changing the vowel. So: "ring/rang," "swim/swam," "lie/lay." And we still have

  • some of those in English.

  • The other kind of verb in Old English takes a "duh" sound, a "D," to form the past tense.

  • So: "talk/talked," "lay/laid."

  • In Old English what would sometimes happen with an intransitive verb like "lie," is that

  • you could create an "-ed" verb to make it transitive. So we took "lay" and created the

  • transitive verb.

  • So when in doubt, just remember that if there's an object, it will be "lay/laid." And if there's

  • no object, and you just want to take a nap, it's "lie/lay."

There are some verbs in English that some people find confusing.

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