Grammar 101

By Robert Morales —

This week we will tackle the two verbs in the English language that tend to give a lot of people a heap of grief: lie and lay.

In general, you can remember lie by thinking of the physical act of going to bed. Example: I am going to lie down for a while. You can remember lay by thinking of placing an item on something. Example: I am going to lay some roses on the table.

That's the easy part. Now, we have to delve deeper into tenses for both verbs:

PRESENT PAST PAST PARTICIPLE
Lie Lay Lain
Lay Laid Laid

Examples: Present Tense

I will lie down before Ann gets here.

Yesterday I lay down before Ann got here.

I have lain on that sofa in the past.

Examples: Past Tense

I will lay a new bouquet of flowers on the coffee table.

I laid a new bouquet of flowers on the coffee table.

I have laid the silverware on the dining table.

You will have to remember that lay is the past tense of lie. There's no other simple way of getting it right. In fact, using lay in the past tense sounds strange and awkward. Practice using the various forms of lie and lay, and soon, you won't even have to think about it.

Moving on to something much easier, some people have trouble with ad and add. An ad is short for advertisement, while add is a verb in arithmetic. You will not place an add in the newspaper, but you will add all the columns to arrive at a sum.