I’m not usually this much of a grammar nazi. Yeah, grammatical errors are always a little frustrating, but I’m no great shakes in the grammar stakes myself, so I don’t usually comment or presume to correct, because I don’t own the right.

However, today I’ve seen the words lie/lay and its/it’s misused all over the place and fearing an epidemic I felt I should comment up a vaccine. Everyone lie on the table and…. Er, okay, we’ll get to the table in a bit. When you read about it don’t think about sex.


Both are present tense verbs, but they, to me, have a completely different usage. To lie is passive and to lay is active. If it doesn’t require action it’s not lay.

For example – I lay the table. I lay down my book – I have to do something in order to achieve the objective.

I lie on the the table. I lie on my back to read my book – requires absolutely no action at all – until someone asks you what you’re doing lying on the table.

It gets more complicated when looking at the past tense, because the past tense of lie is lay. So although I lay the table is the present tense of lay, I lay on the table is the past tense of lie. The past tense of lay is laid. I laid the table (requiring action) then I laid down on it (action required) then I lay on it (no action required)

It’s all in the action – or otherwise.

This writer does not generally advocate lying on tables, as they are often unstable, especially where the lying isn’t entirely passive. (bet you thought about sex, didn’t you? *wink wink*)

Its and It’s

For me, this is easy peasy and I don’t understand why people make the mistake, unless it’s a typo, which I do occasionally when I’m typing fast and miss the apostrophe.

Essentially, the apostrophe denotes a missing letter, as in don’t (do not), shan’t (shall not) I’m (I am) etc.

In this case, the missing letters is usually I – It’s (It is)

Its, without an apostrophe on the other hand, isn’t missing anything. It’s a complete word that denotes possession.

An example

It’s likely (It is likely) that a chicken lays its eggs in a nest because it’s (it is) more comfortable than laying them on the ground.

I would suggest that whenever you are thinking of using its or it’s you substitute it is or it was and see if it works. There is no sense at all in the sentence – a chicken lays it is eggs in a nest.

Hope this helps someone.