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As an English teacher in Norway, I have realized the following: not only do my students have problems with "to lie" and "to lay" but most Americans (and perhaps Britons) have problems with these two verbs as well. Not only is the correct usage of them a problem, but the conjugation of each verb is almost impossible. I would like to ask if you, IN ALL HONESTY AND WITHOUT PEEKING IN A REFERENCE BOOK, can both explain the difference and correctly conjugate these verbs. I'm just curious, because those who read this are a cut above the run-of-the-mill English-speaking individual.
 
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I would like to ask if you, IN ALL HONESTY AND WITHOUT PEEKING IN A REFERENCE BOOK, can both explain the difference and correctly conjugate these verbs.


Yes, but then I should be able to - I'm also an English teacher...
 
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...but then you're not American, either! Americans are notorious for being ignorant regarding lie and lay. Generally speaking, of course.
 
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Well, first of all, welcome to wordcraft! Smile Big Grin Wink Cool

These are exactly the kinds of questions we like!

I am not an English teacher, and I will jump in. If I am wrong, don't be too hard on me! Roll Eyes I have not referred to a reference book, or old posts here, but I wanted to!

I go by the following: Today I "lie" on the bed, yesterday I "lay" on the bed, many times I have "lain" on the bed. You lay" something on the table (active), though it "lies" on the table (passive). Then, I may tell a "lie", but that's a different story entirely! Wink

Am I correct?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Well, first of all, welcome to wordcraft! Smile Big Grin Wink Cool

Am I correct?


Nearly. Do you want to complete the past and present perfect tenses for "lay" (as you did for lie)before I go into English teacher mode ?
And have a go defining the difference as rewuested by our newest member.
 
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I remember it by thinking of what it is that chickens do with eggs!


Richard English
 
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Do you want to complete the past and present perfect tenses for "lay" (as you did for lie)before I go into English teacher mode ?
Yes, Bob. In fact, I came here to do just that (in an edit).

Again, I go into my mantra: Today I lay the book on the table; yesterday I laid the book on the table; and many times I have laid (I think!) the book on the table.

I remember it by thinking of what it is that chickens do with eggs!

Yes, Richard, and that is definitely the more civilized way to remember it! Wink
 
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Kalleh says, "(I think!)"

Nope. Wink

. . . . . . . . . . lie (intransitive) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .lay (transitive)
present: . . .I lie down. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I lay the book on the table.
. . . . . . . . . .I am lying down.. . . . . . . . . . . . . .I am laying the book on the table
past: . . . . . Yesterday I lay down.. . . . . . . . . .Yesterday I laid the book on the table.
past. part.: Often, I have lain down here.. . . . Often, I have laid the book here.

(PS: A royal pain to make this table line up.)

This message has been edited. Last edited by: shufitz,
 
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Well Kalleh the only single mistake in your description of lie/lay was

though it "lies" on the table (passive)

because while the grammar here is right the teminology isn't. It's not a passive it's a simple present tense usage of an intransitive verb (i.e. one with no object.)

Intransitive verbs don't have a passive. To demonstrate let's use the other sentence

I lay the book on the table.

The passive form of this isn't

The book lies on the table.

(which is a completely different verb)

It's

The book is laid on the table.

Otherwise though a sound exposition of the grammar. 9.5/10

shu has also I see added the present continuous tense. Perhaps, as he's feeling so erudite he'd care to add all of the others (the past continuous, the future, the future perfect, the future continuous, the past perfect and all the perfect continuous variations) or perhaps not as his explanation is sufficient for the rest to be deduced.

Then, if really bored, we can do all of the passives and all of the modals and all of the passives with modals. Boy we could be here all day.
 
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The difference between lie and lay is similar to that of sit and set, rise and raise, or fall and fell. The lay, set, raise, and fell forms are called causatives in that the meaning of the form is similar to 'to cause to X'. So, e.g., for lie as X, 'to lay' is 'to cause to lie'. Of course, the trouble with lie/lay is that there is chance for confusion of the various tense forms of the verb: lay can be the present indicative of 'to lay' or the past indicative of 'to lie'. You can see in these English verbs a process that goes back through the Common Germanic period to Proto-Indo-European and which invloved a change is vowel quality in the stem and not merely suffixation, which leads to confusion because a similar process is used (in strong verbs) to indicate the past tense.

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You can see in these English verbs a process that goes back through the Common Germanic period to Proto-Indo-European and which invloved a change is vowel quality in the stem and not merely suffixation, which leads to confusion because a similar process is used (in strong verbs) to indicate the past tense.
You might... I can't. Confused


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I submitted the original query regarding "lie/lay" in order to probe the readers' interests and knowledge. What I have learned is that I've come to the right place. I am new to this website but plan to return time and time again. It's just what I've been looking for!

Please continue to submit your thoughts regarding my original query; although I got more than I had hoped, it will still be interesting to read future replies and observations.

I doubt that I would survive meeting all of you in person because I would probably short-circuit my synapses. That's a compliment, by the way!
 
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I forgot to mention the following observation:

In the space of four decades of popular and rock music from the USA and the UK, I have only once heard an artist/group correctly use "lie/lay." The incorrect use that springs to mind is Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" (or actually "Lay lady lay"), although examples are legio.

The duo I noticed that used "lie/lay" correctly was The Eurhythmics. Has anyone else noticed the use/misuse of "lie/lay" in popular lyrics?
 
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Originally posted by markmywords48:
The incorrect use that springs to mind is Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay" (or actually "Lay lady lay"), although examples are legio.

Perhaps Dylan was thinking of the sexual meaning of lay.

Tinman
 
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Well, Tinman, where have you been? I just told Shu that I was going to send you a private message to encourage your swift return...and here you are! Wink Now, we have missed you, and hope you can spend a little more time with us!

Thanks, Bob, for the correction of a book laying on the table, and not lying there. I imagine I have used it wrong in the past. Of course, now I am wondering about sit/set, rise/raise, and fall/fell. In fact, the latter, though I must be completely wrong, seems clear to me. Today I fall, yesterday I fell, and many times I have fallen.

So much to learn, so little time!

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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Thanks, Bob, for the correction of a book _laying_ on the table, and not _lying_ there.


Whoa ! You just sent me scurrying back to my post to see if I had said that and I'm happy to report that I didn't.
Here's the correct usage.

Right at this moment I am laying the book on the table. There, it's done. Now it's lying there.



Don't do that to me ! You know how upset I get if I make a mistake. Smile
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
and fall/fell. In fact, the latter, though I must be completely wrong, seems clear to me. Today I fall, yesterday I fell, and many times I have fallen.

So much to learn, so little time!


The point with fall and fell is that "fell" can also be the simple present tense of a transitive verb - "to fell".

A lumberjcak fells trees.

The verb "to fell" is regular.

I fell the tree.
I felled the tree.
I have felled the tree.

that's half the damned forest taken out !
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Today I fall, yesterday I fell, and many times I have fallen.
So, does that make you a fallen woman? Big Grin


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quote:
Originally posted by tinman:
quote:
Originally posted by markmywords48:
The incorrect use that springs to mind is Bob Dylan's "Lay, Lady, Lay"

Perhaps Dylan was thinking of the sexual meaning of _lay_.


Or maybe he was singing to a chicken.
 
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Mark: In the space of four decades of popular and rock music from the USA and the UK, I have only once heard an artist/group correctly use "lie/lay."

How about the Beatles?

Now the doctor came in stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table
He said Rocky you met your match
And Rocky said, Doc it's only a scratch
And I'll be better I'll be better doc as soon as I am able.


Then we'd lie beneath the shady tree
I love her and she's loving me
She feels good, she knows she's looking fine
I'm so proud to know that she is mine.
Good Day Sunshine
 
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You're correct, of course. Thanks for refreshing my memory!

Speaking of The Beatles, what's with that "But I never sawR them at all 'til there was you..." - is that a dialectical thing? Where did the "r" come from? It surely wasn't there in the original American version they covered, and I see no reason for it to be there otherwise. Can any of you Brits/Liverpudlians-Scouses explain it?
 
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I never sawR them at all
Where did you see the extraneous "R"? I can only suggest it is a typo. It is certainly not English, dialect or otherwise.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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No, the "R" was not a typo; I inserted it there to show what the Beatles vocalist sang: "I never 'sahr/sawr' it at all..." Take a listen to it and you'll hear what I mean.
 
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That intrusive "r" is an element in the speech of the Kennedys. Both Robert and John habitually said "Cuber is ... " where speakers of most American dialects would say "Cuba is ..."

Boston?

By the way, Mark, your profile doesn't tell us much about you. Are you Norwegian? Is English your native language?
 
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Thanks for the comments. The intrusive R was common with the Kennedy family, as you mentioned, but it was Paul McCartney who sang it in the example I mentioned. I still wonder why.

Regarding myself, I was brought up in an Air Force family in the United States. That means we spend 2-3 years in each place, whether it was in the USA or abroad. In 1971, at the age of 23, I became an expatriate and have lived mostly in Norway since then. I teach in a Norwegian school and am fully integrated in the society here, although I am still a citizen of the USA.
 
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About the intrusive R, a couple of things come to mind. It was the habit of Britsh pop groups to affect an American accent when singing. I have a wonderful article by the English sociolinguist Peter Trudgill that I'll try to find. Many dialects of English (both sides of the Pond) drop Rs and stick them in where they aren't etymological. (Funny thing is that the non-rhotic dialects in the US are low prestige, while in the UK RP tended to eschew Rs.) Another great (US this time) sociolinguist, William Labov did a famous study on how people modified their speech (in department stores) when they felt they were speaking to people of their own class and dialect or not. Here's a couple of links:

One

Two
 
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If the Beatles put an [r] in 'saw them', it was by trying to use an American accent. It's not naturally possible in any accent of England (as far as I'm aware).

This is a common effect in imitating accents: you learn what sounds you need to change, but overgeneralize. So I know my [O:] in 'sort', 'ford' needs to have an [r] added to sound American, but I apply the same rule to the same sound in 'sauce', 'fall', etc., giving inauthentic [sOrs], [fOrl].

A Russian speaking English knows they have to try to produce the English sound [w], not Russian [v], in many words, but overgeneralizes it to apply in 'very' to give [weri].

Note that for Beatles the key is the context 'saw them'. In 'saw it' the insertion of [r] is standard, and virtually everyone does it, because that's how [O:] is pronounced before another vowel, [O:r]. But [O:] followed by the consonant [ð] can't have an intrusive [r], as [r] can only be followed by vowels.

In fact if they were putting on American accents, there could be three or even four intrusive R's in that line:

But I neveR sawR them at aRll 'til theRe was you
 
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Thank you so much for your comments and both the links. This is the kind of thing for which I am so thankful I joined Wordcraft!

I still would like to know the reason why Paul McCartney did as he did, since it was never recorded that way in the USA! Ah, well - perhaps your reply is the closest I will ever get to learning the reason.
 
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In reply to aput, you caused me to remember that the Beatles sang "...never saw(r) THEM at all..." - in other words, it wasn't "it" but "them."

Also, the Russian example of f/w is applicaple in Scandinavia as well, causing the hilarious (to me) situation when a Scandinavian pronounces "Viking" as "wiking" even though it is pronounced as "viking" in Scandinavian languages.

Thank you for your comments. I feel I know have a better understanding of the whole question of The Beatles and "sawr" - not to mention everything that has come forth in connection to my original query!
 
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A couple more notes...

Paul McCartney sang "saw" as "sawr" on "Till There was You" but never, to the best of my knowledge, anywhere else. The "saw" in "I Saw her Standing There," for example, is a distinct "saw" even though one could slur it a bit with the "her" which follows. (Unrelated sidenote: I can remember some critic complaining that "I Saw Her Standing There" was nothing more than a rewrite of "Some Enchanted Evening. Yeah, right!)


And the Kennedy "Cuber" thing is common throughout the Northeast U.S. My first ex was born and raised in New Hampshire and it always amused me when she suggested we go out for a pepperoni "pete-zer" (pizza).
 
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You're correct to the best of my knowledge. And that makes it even more intriguing that he used "sawr" that one time. We have had different explanations, but perhaps we'll have to ask him ourselves! Only then will I be able to sleep at night. Just joking, of course. Thanks for your input!
 
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aput, I got carried away when replying to you last time, and typed f/W instead of v/w. In addition I misspelled "applicable" in my haste to reply. But I assume you understood the v/w reference. Sorry about that. Sometimes enthusiasm can be detrimental!
 
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Hold on - Late-Breaking News!

I googled up a coupla Beatles message boards and brought the "sawr" question up and the general consensus is that it is just a trace of Liverpudlian accent. I tend to doubt this since the song "Till There was You" came so early in their career, a time when you would think it would be likely that they would specifically try to speak their best. Posh, even. So maybe that was an odd attempt to sound American.

BUT! One person did bring up an interesting fact. The "sawr" in that song is not unique in Beatle music. John Lennon clearly sings "I sawr the news today, oh boy" in the first part of "A Day in the Life." And that, of course, was much later in their collective career when they felt no need to impress anyone with their diction, posh or otherwise.

So there you have it. (or not...)
 
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...and just when I was beginning to get a good night's sleep once again. Will this madness never end??? The horror! The horror!

I have a Liverpudlian friend who teaches in Beijing. Perhaps I should contact him about this. The future of my sleep pattern depends upon it!

Thanks, Chris, for reawakening the question...
 
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mark, when you've been around awhile on the board you'll discover that nothing here is ever straightforward. Inside every can of worms are half a dozen more cans of worms waiting to be opened.
I swear these damned threads take on lives of their own !
 
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Thanks, Bob. I'm happy about that, actually!
 
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Regarding the "I never SAWR them at all..." thread: I contacted my teacher friend in Beijing. He is a Liverpudlian and several years younger than the Beatles, but not much. Here is what he had to say:


Interesting reading! I’m afraid that one or two of the writers have got it very wrong.
The Beatles were merely using everyday pronunciation habits from their home city, even if they were also affecting a “mid-Atlantic” accent.
We Liverpudlians – especially those with a strong Liverpudlian accent - almost always use the “R” sound to connect vowels and vowel-like sounds. In addition (and, linguistically, this may be more unusual) the “R” is also used to replace consonants (especially – perhaps exclusively - “t”) both when connecting words and within words.
Some examples:

I saw it becomes I sawrit
I saw a million holes becomes I sawra million holes
I’ll give you a go becomes I’ll give yerra go
I’ve got to go becomes I’ve gorra go
Better than becomes berrer than

There are many other oddities in Liverpudlian – for example with regard to pronouns and possessives. For example:

give me a go becomes give us a go (“us” actually meaning “me” in this context)
my brother John becomes our John (whether talking about John to a stranger, a sibling, or even one of our parents).

Why the “R” oddity? I have absolutely no idea. The Kennedy pronunciation may have something to do with the Irish roots that are shared between Liverpudlians and Kennedies (I knew we had something in common besides an attraction to Marilyn Monroe).
Hope this helps!
 
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If you for some reason one of you should find fault with my Liverpudlian friend's reply, please be aware that he is a confused individual. For years he wondered why Americans referred to The Big Dipper as a constellation, when he knew well that it was a roller coaster - at least in the UK. However, he has his redeeming qualities: once, while we were shelling and eating boiled shrimp/prawns, he paused and said "This reminds me of a horrible train wreck in India." I looked up at him with a puzzled look on my face and he said "Crushed Asians." (this must be vocalized).
 
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First, congratulations on your becoming a "Member", mark! I don't know when it happened, but glad to see it!

"Crushed Asians." Your liverpudlian friend is funny! Big Grin BTW, maybe this has been mentioned before, but how does one living in Liverpool become a Liverpudlian? I would have guessed it would be "Liverpoolian." Pool got changed to puddle?
 
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Hello, Kalleh, and thank you. I became a member in four days by shooting off my mouth. Now I think it's time to shut up for a while. However, I can't leave without replying to your question about Liverpudlian. I have no idea how that happened, but they are also called "scouses."

Have a good weekend, everyone!
 
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Now I think it's time to shut up for a while.
Oh, please, no! We love you here! BTW, see the message in Community about Saturday's chat. We'd love for you to join us!
 
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Well, lots of little puddles make up a pool, so one inhabitant of The 'Pool is a 'Pudlian, yes?

Scouse is from lobscouse, a sailor's (very likely Norwegian) dish of stewed meat, vegetables, and ship's biscuit, not unlike Irish stew. Lobscouser became a slang name for a sailor. As a port city, Liverpool became known for this dish. The word Scouser came to refer to a native of Liverpool, the city where they ate scouse.

There is a Scouse translator online at http://www.whoohoo.co.uk/scouse-translator.asp -- I notice the same site provides translators for Cockney Rhyming Slang, Brummie, Yorkshire, Scots, Geordie, Irish, "Posh" and Ali G. Smile


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That is an excellent site. I shall bookmark it.


Richard English
 
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arnie, you're correct about the "lobscouse" being Norwegian. Here it's spelled "lapskaus" and is pronounced almost the same way.
 
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Yes, arnie, that is an excellent site. You might want to put it in Links for Linguaphiles.

When Richard was here, we talked a bit about cockney rhyming, and I know we have discussed it on this board. It is fun, but I often find it hard to figure out. Do these get memorized or do people actually figure them out as they go?
 
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Cockney rhyming slang is a living form and new terms are being created constantly. They are memorised.

The rule for formation is simple. A two-syllable phrase is chosen, the last word of which is a rhyme for the word wanted. Thus "Tod Sloane" (a famous jockey of yesteryear) is used to rhyme with "own" and the "Tod" is dropped.

So "on his Tod" means "one his own" - alone.

This, like many of the rhymes is old but new ones appear as I have said.

"Fancy a Ruby?" is a Ruby Murray - curry.


Richard English
 
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Not to argue but it doesn't always have to be a two-syllable phrase. The "trouble and strife" is old Cockney rhyming slang for "wife." Basil Fawlty, for example, was known to say "No word to the trouble, right?" when he was trying (usually unsuccessfully) to keep something from his wife.

To coin a new example, When R.E. was here in Chicago, I'm sure Kalleh knew better than to offer him a nice cold sun. ("Sun visor" = Budweiser)
 
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CJ says, "'Trouble and strife' is old Cockney rhyming slang for 'wife.'"

How lovely when the slang phrase, chosen for its rhyme, also happens to be descriptive.
 
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