lie/lay alternation - not US
D.Hall at KENT.AC.UK
Wed Oct 5 08:52:13 UTC 2011
"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 (http://www.elyrics.net/read/s/snow-patrol-lyrics/chasing-cars-lyrics.html):
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."
I think _lie_ here does mean "be recumbent" and not "tell a lie". However, there's still a problem here. It's true that for some speakers of British English there can be alternation between _lay_ and _lie_ in the senses "be in a prostrate or recumbent position" (as in (1)) or "be positioned on" (as in (2)).
1) He lies / lays on the floor. (persons / animals)
2) The fork lies / lays on the table. (inanimate objects)
I don't think this is an instance of the alternation, though. The instances of _lay_ in this quotation are both from the verb whose infinitive is _lie_.
The clue is in "Would you lie with me": "would" cues a (?counterfactual) past-tense antecedent, so that past-tense antecedent has to be the only verb preceding "would" in the sentence, ie _lay_. As _lay_ therefore has to be a past tense, it is the past tense of the verb whose infinitive is _lie_ (the past tense of the verb whose infinitive is _lay_ is, of course, _laid_).
University of Kent (UK)
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, 'Towards a New Linguistic Atlas of France'
English Language and Linguistics, School of European Culture and Languages
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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