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Kathleen in VA

Grammar ?: lay ahead or lie ahead

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I listened to a video of Pres. Obama's remarks just after the Ft. Hood tragedy and he said,

 

I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead.

 

Later, I listened to a video about two men struggling to make ends meet during this economic crisis. The reporter ended his segment with these words:

 

...not giving up hope that better times lie ahead.

 

So which is it, lie or lay? This is the kind of thing that will needle me until I find out.

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I understand that chickens lay and people lie.

 

So, I believe it would be lie ahead.

 

:D

 

ETA I understand this is a cheat rather than a hard and fast grammar rule, but it is helpful 95% of the time when we are not referring to lay/lie used as regular old verbs/predicates. I can't even try to tell you where I heard that, though.

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Isn't lay what you do to someone or something, and lie what you do with your own body?

 

If I'm acting upon something/someone else I lay it, or place it down. Bringing my own person down onto another surface (such as a bed) is lying?

 

 

I'm not fully awake today, so I could be way off.

 

 

It seems whatever situation is ahead would be lying itself before me. I think???

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I think that because it's "chickens lay" and "people lie": they're not talking about people physically lying down in the future, they are talking about "situations" - therefore I would think it's lay.

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Here's an answer from WIKI, not that it's the final grammar authority.

 

"It depends. In the present tense it is lie ahead. In the past tense it is lay ahead. Because lay is the past tense of lie. Do not confuse this with the verb lay, which means to put something down. I may lay an ambush. But the ambush lies ahead. Now that I am past the ambush it does not bother me that it lay ahead."

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I listened to a video of Pres. Obama's remarks just after the Ft. Hood tragedy and he said,

 

I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead.

 

Later, I listened to a video about two men struggling to make ends meet during this economic crisis. The reporter ended his segment with these words:

 

...not giving up hope that better times lie ahead.

 

So which is it, lie or lay? This is the kind of thing that will needle me until I find out.

 

Kathleen I depend on you to know these things.....:tongue_smilie:

 

My first thought is it should be lay since it is 'times' that is referred to.

 

Then, as always, my second thought is but what do I know.

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To lie is to assume a horizontal or resting position; to lay is to put something down.

 

Some confusion arises because "lay" is the past tense of lie.

 

Here are some sample conjugations/usages:

 

I lie on the bed; I am lying on the bed; yesterday I lay on the bed; in the past I have lain on the bed.

 

I lay the books on the table; I am laying the books on the table; yesterday I laid the books on the table; in the past I have laid the books on the table.

 

The verb phrase is "lie ahead". It should conjugate as does "lie". So "challenges that lay ahead" means the challenges were there in the past but are no longer there now.

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Obama made a grammatical error here, although according to Webster's Dictionary of English Usage many grammarians feel the distinction is fading and the words can be used interchangeably.

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To lie is to assume a horizontal or resting position; to lay is to put something down.

 

Some confusion arises because "lay" is the past tense of lie.

 

Here are some sample conjugations/usages:

 

I lie on the bed; I am lying on the bed; yesterday I lay on the bed; in the past I have lain on the bed.

 

I lay the books on the table; I am laying the books on the table; yesterday I laid the books on the table; in the past I have laid the books on the table.

 

The verb phrase is "lie ahead". It should conjugate as does "lie". So "challenges that lay ahead" means the challenges were there in the past but are no longer there now.

 

Nice explanation. I am printing it out for reference. Thanks!

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Yes, I second that. With "to lay" it can help to add the word "down" in your head to distinguish it from "to lie."

 

* Tomorrow I will lie in my bed all day while my daughter brings me bonbons.

 

* Tomorrow I will lay down all my responsibilities and hop a plane to Paris.

 

* Tomorrow I am hoping my chickens will lay, so I can go to market.

 

--So in the example you cited, the use of "lay" in the future tense was a grammatical error, unless the situations were planning to lay down a particular thing or they were planning to lay eggs, of course. These are extraordinary days, so I wouldn't want to presume what the situations may or may not have been intending to do, of course!

 

(speaking as an English teacher, who has spent many years correcting students on this error....!)

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To lie is to assume a horizontal or resting position; to lay is to put something down.

 

Some confusion arises because "lay" is the past tense of lie.

 

Here are some sample conjugations/usages:

 

I lie on the bed; I am lying on the bed; yesterday I lay on the bed; in the past I have lain on the bed.

 

I lay the books on the table; I am laying the books on the table; yesterday I laid the books on the table; in the past I have laid the books on the table.

 

The verb phrase is "lie ahead". It should conjugate as does "lie". So "challenges that lay ahead" means the challenges were there in the past but are no longer there now.

 

You explained it more clearly than the WIKI article.

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I understand that chickens lay and people lie.

 

So, I believe it would be lie ahead.

 

:D

 

ETA I understand this is a cheat rather than a hard and fast grammar rule, but it is helpful 95% of the time when we are not referring to lay/lie used as regular old verbs/predicates. I can't even try to tell you where I heard that, though.

 

Okay, now that I'm on my second cup of coffee, I think the cheat is all my own. "Lay behind" is past tense because the eggs are already in my fridge (meaning they have already been laid). The op's example is clearly future tense "lie ahead".

 

*Note to self: don't wake up and start answering grammar questions before cup of coffee has started to work.:leaving:

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Well, I knew it was a transitive/non-transitive thing, but it was too early in the morning for me to think (or, more likely, I was just too lazy:D). Anyway, now that I've had my shower and dressed and thanks to all you clever ladies, I can see that it should be lie. As I was shampooing my hair, I thought the president must be right because speaking is his gift. He's very good at at and it just seemed highly unlikely that he would make that kind of error. But, in his defense, he was at a conference that got interrupted by the shooting and this particular sentence was a switch in his prepared speech. Also, I do think the distinction is fading somewhat. I wonder if he thought about it later and cringed.:)

 

Oh, and sorry, Scarlett.:) I'm not sure why, but the structure of the sentences threw me off.

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Okay, now that I'm on my second cup of coffee, I think the cheat is all my own. "Lay behind" is past tense because the eggs are already in my fridge (meaning they have already been laid).

 

*Note to self: don't wake up and start answering grammar questions before cup of coffee has started to work.:leaving:

 

I'm thinking lack of coffee was my problem, too. No worries. It happens to the best of us.:D

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I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead.

 

The fields lie fallow. (intransitive, present tense, plural)

 

The guests lay their coats on the bed. (transitive, present tense, plural)

 

So I think that the president made a slip of the tongue. I'm happy to be corrected - I only just made up the transitive/intransitive rule. I've always done this one by instinct before.

 

ETA: didn't read the other comments - others got there before me.

 

Laura

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That's my understanding of the distinction as well. The verb "to lay" takes a direct object. What is most confusing is that lay is the past tense of lie. argh.

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Isn't lay what you do to someone or something, and lie what you do with your own body?

 

If I'm acting upon something/someone else I lay it, or place it down. Bringing my own person down onto another surface (such as a bed) is lying?

 

 

I'm not fully awake today, so I could be way off.

 

 

It seems whatever situation is ahead would be lying itself before me. I think???

 

That's correct. Chickens lay eggs (direct object). Let sleeping dogs lie. (no direct object.) You tell a dog to "Go lie down." You lay an object on the table. Good times lie ahead. (no direct object.)

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I thought the president must be right because speaking is his gift. He's very good at at and it just seemed highly unlikely that he would make that kind of error.

 

 

This is what I thought too....

 

But, in his defense, he was at a conference that got interrupted by the shooting and this particular sentence was a switch in his prepared speech. Also, I do think the distinction is fading somewhat. I wonder if he thought about it later and cringed.:)

 

 

I'm betting he did cringe. :D

 

 

Oh, and sorry, Scarlett.:) I'm not sure why, but the structure of the sentences threw me off.

 

Is ok Kathleen. :lol: Everyone gets an off day.

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