Plain Language Commission . Clear English Standard


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Lie back and think of English

Lie back[7 Feb 2014] An advert for a brand of armchairs bears the main headline ‘Turn on. Tune in. Lay back’, a slogan that seeks to tap in to its customers’ hippie-era memories as they recline in their decline. The correct verb form in standard English would be ‘Lie back’, with ‘lay back’ being a past tense.

Popular songs have a lot to answer for here: John Denver in Annie’s Song, ‘Let me lay down beside you’; Simon and Garfunkel in Bridge Over Troubled Water, ‘I will lay me down’, and Bob Dylan, ‘Lay lady lay, lay across my big brass bed’.

So, for devotees of strict grammar, this one is probably a lost cause. [MC]

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