lie/lay alternation - not US

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 5 04:09:22 UTC 2011

Sheer speculation:  Maybe "lay with", with human object, is too close to "lay" (tr.), so "lie" in line 3 is a quasi-euphemism.  I know, doesn't explain why "lie" isn't used throughout.  Another perhaps more likely possibility:  The "if" in lines 1,2 induces an irrealis tense shift, where "lay" is past of "lie" (cf. "If I were to lie with you").  In this case, there'd be no appreciable difference between the below quatrain and e.g.

If I sat here
If I just sat here
Would you sit with me
And just forget the world?


On Oct 4, 2011, at 11:09 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:

> In the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, the words lay and lie appear as intransitive verbs.
> One stanza has both and is repeated four times (
> If I lay here
> If I just lay here
> Would you lie with me
> And just forget the world?
> The enunciation is clear in each instance. Although it's possible that "lie" means "tell a lie," it looks like euphonic alternation to me.
> The song was written by Gary Lightbody (, who was born in Northern Ireland and went to university in Scotland.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list