Quick and Dirty Grammar: Lay, sit, rise

English is a crazy language, and sometimes it’s incredibly easy to mix up words and confuse meanings. Some words are tougher than others to get straight. The words that seem to get the most jumbled about are lay/lie, set/sit, raise/rise. So, let’s look at those words and figure out some quick and dirty ways to remember them.


Lie means to recline

Lay means to place

One easy way to see which word you need is to replace lay/lie with either recline/place, for example:

I lay in bed. becomes I recline in bed.

I lie the book down. becomes I place the book down.

Another way to remember this is that you always have to lie something down, so it will always have an object following it. You don’t lay anything down so it doesn’t need an object.

I lay the book down

I lie on the couch.

Piece of cake, right? Well, that’s when the language gods laughs at your arrogance and announces that the past tense of lie is lay.

Alright, now don’t go flipping any tables, we can still make this work.  You can still try to replace the word with place or recline to determine what word fits best (and maybe just abandon lay/lie, no shame in that) or look for an object.

I spend my weekends lying in bed. becomes I spend my weekends reclining (chillaxing) in bed.

I lay down at night to sleep. becomes I recline at night to sleep.

I have lain down for the night. (Yes, lain, not laid.) I have reclined for the night. (Okay, it doesn’t always sound right… but it works)

The woman laying bricks were tired.  becomes The woman placing bricks were tired.

The dog laid the ball at his master’s feet.  becomes The dog placed the ball at his master’s feet.

My secret admirerer has laid roses by my locker. becomes My secret admirerer has placed roses by my locker.


Past Tense

Past Participle (used with have)

Lie Lay Lain
Lay Laid Laid

Got it?

Awesome, next let’s look at sit/set.

Sit means to rest and does not take an object.

Set means to place and always has an object.

I sit down.

You set the bag on the table.

The language god is mercifully on this one and the tenses do not mirror one another.


Past Tense

Past Participle (used with have)

Sit Sat Sat
Set Set Set

Now we have rise/raise which is another one that is often confused.

Rise means to ascend, to go up and does not have to have an object.

Raise means to lift up and always has an object.

I rise reluctently every morning.

I raised the fragile dish above the fighting children.


Past Tense

Past Participle (used with have)

Rise Rose Risen
Raise Raised Raised

Alright, so a quick run down: Lay, set and raise MUST take an object, something is being  set, laid or raised, it can’t just be by itself.

Lie, sit and rise can be by themselves and do not have to be acting on anything.

Questions, or concerns? Go ahead… Lay them on me!


1 Comment »

  1. Reanna Said:

    The picture of cookie monster makes this post! Great explanation of lay/lie, I had never seen it done with recline/place. Really helpful!

{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: