MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

Grammar Tip: Lie vs. Lay

by Arwen O'Reilly Griffith

OK folks, here's your grammar tip of the week. There are a number of verbs that we makers use with some frequency, so I thought it might be time to clear the air. Here's one pair of verbs we often trip over at the MAKE office.

The reason most people get "lay" and "lie" confused is that lay is the past tense of lie as well as being the present tense of itself.

Lay is a transitive verb, meaning that generally it is used with an object (you lay your cigar box guitar on your workbench).

Lie is an intransitive verb, meaning that it is not used with an object (you lie down in exhaustion after finishing your new videocam rocket).

The past tense of lay is "laid" (you laid your socket wrench on the table saw yesterday) and the past tense of lie is "lay" (last week you lay in your hammock and didn't build anything).

OK, now you know the difference. Just don't leave your tools lying around!