We Won’t Stand for It!

You won’t stand for it? Then what will you do?

We’ll lie for it.

You mean you’ll tell a falsehood?

No, we’ll lie down.

Do you mean you’ll lay down?

No—not unless we have some goose down to get out of our hands. If we do, we might lay it on the ground. If we are using the verb lay in the present tense, we must have a direct object.

A person lies down. If he did it yesterday, he lay down then (which we realize is a tad confusing). But if it’s current, he’s lying down, not laying down.

This grammar issue reminds us of our grandmother, the Grammar Empress, who was a real stickler on this point. Her son Harvey told her he was going to go upstairs and lay down. “What are you going to lay, little Harveys?” she inquired in a less-than-maternal tone.

Her point was that if one wishes to use “lay” in the present tense, then one must have some thing to lay, for example the book on the table. One can lay books on the table until the cows come home (and beg to be read to). But if one is just going to recline, one is lying down.

When someone tells a dog to “lay down” and the dog does not comply, we have a little chuckle and tell the person that the dog is waiting to hear the correct grammar before obeying. The person doesn’t always find this all that amusing, so sometimes we say it quietly, just in our mind.

A dog who is puzzled because he was told to lay down
A dog who is puzzled because he was told to lay down

Dogs who were told to lie down
Dogs who were told to lie down



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