Does carpet lay or lie?

“On the floor **lays **a carpet” or “On the floor **lies **a carpet”?


I was taught that things lay, people and animals lie.

“On the floor lies a carpet.”

British Council
Dr. Grammar

It lies on the floor. You lay it onto the floor. “Lay” is transitive (has a direct object; in this case the carpet); “lie” is intransitive.

You would lay a carpet when installing it, but after that it just lies there.

Thanks for the fast replies. Lie/lay and passed/past are my two biggest grammatical hangups.

And you would lie on the carpet to get laid?

I looked at those links and I don’t see anything that would say that “On the floor lies a carpet” is correct.

Not if the carpet lied to you. Unless it bought you dinner first.

And do you lie about it after getting laid?

Dr. Grammar:

If you know the lay of the land, you would.

Dammit. This is elementary school stuff.

To be in a horizontal position is to lie, of which the past tense is lay.

The carpet lies on the floor. It lay there in the same place last week, too. In fact, it has lain there for a year now.

To place something in a position where it lies is to lay it there.

The rug dealer comes in and lays the carpet. He laid mine last month. He has laid carpets since he was a boy.

The thing itself lies somewhere. He who put it there lays it there. Lie is intransitive; lay is transitive. You lie on the couch, with no direct object. You lay something else somewhere. The “Lie” points back to the subject; the “lay” to the direct object.

The one oddball usage, exemplified in the old children’s prayer, is that when you lie down, you speak of laying yourself, a reflexive use of the transitive verb. “Now I lay me down to sleep” is correct, but if you didn’t have the “me” (=myself) in there, it would be “Now I lie down to sleep” – unmetrical but grammatically accurate.

Pardon me if I’m being whooshed, but isn’t it “the lie of the land”?

It’s actually pretty simple. All due respect, but whoever taught you that was 100% wrong. Were you taught this in school? Any chance you remember wrong?

A subject lies down, whether human or animal. One lays an object down, no matter what its composition.

Period, really.

You should reread the links carefully; they say the same thing, and they disagree with your understanding.

You’ve met her?

If Poly is the high priest here, are all the rest of us just lay people?

If you get called on the carpet about lying that you got laid, get angry about it and throw a bag of chips, is that a Frito lay?

This is getting past bad puns.

“Let sleeping dogs lie. They seldom tell the truth anyway.” – attributed to Groucho Marx

“I’ve always been interested in the lay of the land – especially when I was going through puberty.”

Then, of course, we have minstrels courting fair damsels with their lays. (I forebear from making any of the obvious collection of possible puns there.)

I once went to school with a (Protestant) boy who was convinced that the reason for the church terms was that Catholic priests were required to be celibate, and the rest weren’t, so they were called laymen.

Coincidence: Lai means ‘song’ in both French and Urdu.

I enjoyed the jokes about getting laid the best, but my contribution here is historical grammar. The intransitive verb lie comes from Old English licgan, from Germanic *ligjan, from Proto-Indo-European *legh-. This is the most basic, original form of the verb. The transitive, causative verb lay comes from Old English lecgan, from Germanic *lagjan. The vowel shift i>a is how the causative form of the verb was derived from the intransitive. Lecgan literally means ‘cause to lie’. Compare this with causative formants in Hindi, made by inserting the vowel -a-. For example, uTh- means ‘read’, and the causative uTha- means ‘raise’. You can even see this process at work in the English words rise and raise.

I meant uTh- means ‘rise’ and uTha- means ‘raise’. In both the Hindi and English examples, the causative is formed by insertion of -a-. This process is how lay was derived as a causative form of lie.