EN: lay / lie

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uworissimo

Member
German (Saxon)
Hello guys,

I just happened to listen to Bruno Mars' song 'The Lazy Song' on the radio. The second line of the song goes "I just want to lay in my bed."

Here is my question: Is Bruno Mars using the wrong verb here? Isn't the verb 'to lay' transitive? Shouldn't he rather have picked 'to lie'?

Thanks for y'all's help!
 
  • Donaldos

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Je pense qu'il a été "lazy" jusqu'au bout. Même pour ce qui est de la grammaire...
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I agree with Donaldos. Larousse points out that to lay may be used intransitively to mean, either pondre (an animal that lays an egg) or to lie in an informal way (which is "understandable" as the past tense of to lie is lay).
     

    pointvirgule

    Senior Member
    langue française
    Beaucoup de locuteurs anglophones emploient lay intransitivement au lieu de lie. C'est peut-être « mal » par rapport à l'anglais standard, mais c'est quand même un usage répandu. Même Bob Dylan, qui n'était pas un cancre, chantait : Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed.
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    The usage Larousse records as informal is not just "informal" -- it's incorrect... but it is frequent enough that I understand why it might appear in a FR>EN dictionary (to help non-natives understand what they are hearing!).

    Erroneous usage for lay/lie is common, even among native English speakers, and especially in the preterit or with the past participle. The preterit conjugations of to lie look like the present conjugations of to lay. Add to this the fact that the preterit conjugations of "to lie = mentir" are different from those of"to lie = être allongé"... you begin to see why it's confusing! :eek:

    You can compare the conjugations here: lay / lie (italics = mentir, normal font = être allongé). This article discusses the issue. This page includes lie/mentir. :)


    P.S. I wouldn't hold Dylan's lyrics up as an example: they're lyrics! Artistic license is freely granted! Dylan certainly used lay there because of the common syllable with lady.
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    If Dylan can write it, so can Bruno Mars, is all aw'm sayin'.
    Of course! :) But Uworissimo did ask about whether or not Mars was using lay correctly -- and the answer is no. Very current, but not correct.
     

    geostan

    Senior Member
    English Canada
    Of course! :) But Uworissimo did ask about whether or not Mars was using lay correctly -- and the answer is no. Very current, but not correct.
    Indeed Jann, I must say that I'm forever correcting individuals (under my breath) when they misuse these verbs. One of the most common examples is the command given to a dog: Lay down. (No, it should be Lie down.)

    That said, I'm sure that some day, these incorrect forms will become standard, but not with me.

    Cheers
     

    eighty

    New Member
    English
    Me too! I have calculated that you hear lay misused for lie, an average of 5 times per day if you mingle with a few people, watch a little TV, or read something. On the other hand, you almost do a doubletake when you hear lie used correctly, it is so rare. I am afraid you are right; it's going to become accepted practice--too soon. But not with me either.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In the present tense, you lay a carpet (= poser), you lay an egg (= pondre), you lay a road (= faire) and a hundred other things, but it's always a transitive verb. It never means se coucher.
     

    djweaverbeaver

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English Atlanta, GA USA
    In the present tense, you lay a carpet (= poser), you lay an egg (= pondre), you lay a road (= faire) and a hundred other things, but it's always a transitive verb. It never means se coucher.
    True, to lay (laid, laid) is mostly transitive, whereas to lie (lay, lain) is mostly intransitive. In the U.S., you rarely hear to lie used correctly, and it sounds very odd, almost wrong when you hear someone who actually knows how to use it correctly, that is, at least in my region.
     
    Bad habits and improperly learned trends are abound in English grammar, but thankfully we have the likes of jann and other veterans of this forum to shed clarifying light on such ambiguities. :>
    The only thing that irks me more is the notoriously common confusion of "there", "they're" and "their", when in all fairness, it shouldn't be that complicated for native speakers to master their differences!
     

    bryanilee

    New Member
    English - US
    Your absolutely write!
    I really hope that was a joke.

    Regarding the lay/lie thing, Webster seems to call that use of lay as "nonstandard" - I don't know if that's their nice way of saying "wrong". :)

    www . merriam-webster. com/dictionary/lay

    (sorry for the messed up URL - I keep getting this dumb error about new members not being allowed to post links)...
     

    xaipete

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Of course, there is also the sexual meaning of "lay", and I've always wondered whether in "Lay lady, lay" Dylan really wanted her to "get laid". But even that meaning is transitive. Usually you lie down first, then you lay someone. Unless you're particularly (a) athletic or (b) kinky.
     

    Magenta Wizard

    Member
    English - Australian
    "Lay" in the sexual sense is almost always used in the passive voice as "to get laid", where "laid" is the past participle of "lay", a transitive verb. To say you are going to "lay someone" would be very unusual, at least in Australia. A more explicit verb would usually be chosen. An archaic active version would be "to lie with" someone, but "lie" is a different verb, and an intransitive one at that. The sense is different also, with the meaning focusing on being in bed with someone, and the sex merely implied. That is why "lie with" is more discreet and harks back to Victorian times.

    And for added interest there is the archaic reflexive use of "lay" (as an alternative to "lie") in the eighteenth century prayer.

    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my Soul to keep;
    If I should die before I 'wake,
    I pray the Lord my Soul to take.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Interestingly, Macmillan has this to say about that phrasal verb
    INTRANSITIVE SPOKEN a way of saying ‘lie down’ that many people think is incorrect
    LAY DOWN (phrasal verb) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary
    (To lay down to sleep = To bed down for the night.)

    :warning: They don’t say it IS incorrect, just that many people think that.
    Since language evolves in this way all the time. ;) N'en déplaise à certains.

    1. A classic example of this is to curry favor - Wiktionary (originally « to comb Fauvel » (the stallion)). At some point in time it was obviously incorrect to say the former, when meaning the latter. However this is no longer the case, as « to curry favour » is in common use these days.

    2. Just desserts, was originally just deserts, but enough folks used the « incorrect « version until such time as it replaced the « correct » one; 'Just Deserts' or 'Just Desserts'?
     
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    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    If "to lie (lay, lain)" and "to lay (laid, laid)" weren't different verbs, they wouldn't have different dictionary entries. And yes, the existence of "to lie" (regular verb) complicates things even further. That said, using "lay" for "lie" is, shall we say, "erroneous" [and ill-advised].
     

    Jektor

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    I just happened to listen to Bruno Mars' song 'The Lazy Song' on the radio. The second line of the song goes "I just want to lay in my bed."
    To me, "I just want to lay in my bed" suggests stretching out in an extremely relaxed manner, with arms and legs outstretched, etc. It's a more emphatic "spread out" image than simply "I want to lie in my bed".
    That's why Bob Dylan says in #4:
    "Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed...
    "Lie, lady, lie across my big brass bed" doesn't have the same expansive image or sound of complete "stretched out" relaxation.
    lyrics.com - bob+dylan - lay+lady+lay
    .
     
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