lie, lay, lying, laying


New Member
I have looked these words up many times and there are many obvious uses cases, but I still find myself uncertain of which word to use in certain circumstances.

Can Faulkner's book "As I Lay Dying" and Styron's book "Lie Down in Darkness" both be correct?

Phlebas the Phoenician
  • DocPenfro

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Hi Phlebas. Forgotten the cry of gulls, yet?

    Lie; past tense = lay; present participle = lying; past participle = lain.

    Faulkner's title is an example of the simple past tense. Styron's is an imperative, using the second person of the present tense. Simples.
    Forget about "laying". Hens lay eggs and brickies lay bricks.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Using "lay" for "lie," as in "I'm going to lay down and rest," is a common error - but it is still an error.

    In an intransitive sense, what a person does himself or herself, the present tense is "lie." "Lay" is the simple past.

    "Lay," in the present, is transitive: "I'm going to lay the plates on the table." Its simple past is "laid."
    I wrote these verses to demonstrate the difference:


    I'm lying here upon the shore;
    I lie here every day.
    I've lain here many times before;
    I lay here yesterday.

    I'd lay my head upon the floor
    If you'd lie down by me.
    I've laid it there five times or more;
    (I lied—it's only three).

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