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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Laid vs. Lied - Yes, that tired old question

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a reader who had an issue with one of my word choices. The line in question?

‘Frustrated and angry with himself, he lied back down and clasped his hands behind his head.’

This reader explained, with surprising vehemence, that I should have used ‘laid’, not ‘lied’. Don’t worry, I wasn’t offended…well, maybe a little after they informed me this only seemed to be a problem with romance authors…LOL

Anyway, the truth is, I had originally used ‘laid’ in that sentence, which sounds better to my ear than ‘lied’. But my editor promptly corrected me. And since ‘lay versus lie’ had always confused me, I did a little research and found plenty to support my editor’s position.

But this reader was quite adamant that they were correct, which left me wondering. Is there a correct answer? Could both words technically work in the above sentence, or should this reader have done their own homework before schooling me (and maybe others)?

I found this chart on Writer’s Digest, which seems to support my editor’s opinion:

Lay vs. Lie Chart

Infinitive   Definition            Present    Past    Past Participle    Present Participle

to lay       to put or place       lay(s)     laid    laid               laying
              something down
to lie       to rest or recline    lie(s)     lay     lain               lying

And a few more references:

So, what do you think? I would love to hear your opinions on this topic. As for the reader, turns out they’re just a very nice person who happens to be quite passionate about grammatical errors. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Donna


  1. I agreed with the reader (though not so vehemently), until I read the Lay-vs-Lie Chart. Huh.

    Though to be honest, laid still sounds right to me. :)

  2. LOL!! I would have changed it to "he stretched out on the couch..." Whenever there's a weird verb, I avoid it at all cost. :-D

    1. Yes, I find myself doing this, too, Meg. :)

  3. I agree, laid sounds better to me, too. Though I was quite taken aback by this reader's...anger. LOL It was clear they felt a certain disdain toward romance authors in general. What surprised me is most research proves 'lied' is, in fact, correct. So I'm still a little unsure why they didn't do a little more research themselves. *shrug*

    Meg, I would normally change the verb/sentence around as well, though I didn't think of it as weird at the time. LOL

  4. Donna,

    I would use the past tense of to lie which is lay. Former grammar teacher here. Or as another already suggested use a more visual verb which would probably arrive in a second or third revision for me. :-)