Terry Watt
1 May 2000

Commonly Confused Words
Further vs. Farther & Lie vs. Lay


Several words in English exist as confused pairs. This situation often arises because one word is generally used transitively while the other is generally intransitive. However, at least one special case of simple dualism also exists: the pair further/farther.

The Little, Brown Handbook lists three pairs of words as "commonly confused": sit/set, rise/raise, and lie/lay (p. 212). The Handbook distinguishes between the present tense, past tense, and past participle forms for each of these pairs, claiming that one is always intransitive and one always transitive. However, the situation is not as clear-cut as the authors would have us believe.

Though the Handbook refers to three pairs of words, I will not examine the sit/set and rise/raise pairs. The basic reason for this decision is that the confusion in these pairs is a great deal less than in the case of lie/lay, based on the results of a preliminary corpus study. As a result, very few cases of conflict can be located in a corpus based almost entirely on written material; the cases were the author was initially confused have been almost entirely edited out.

Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary contains a usage note on the distinction between lay and lie, but not for the other forms. This note says that

Lay has been used intransitively in the sense of "lie" since the 14th century. The practice was unremarked until around 1770; attempts to correct it have been a fixture of schoolbooks ever since. Generations of teachers and critics have succeeded in taming most literary and learned writing, but intransitive lay persists in familiar speech and is a bit more common in general prose than one might suspect. Much of the problem lies in the confusing similarity of the principal parts of the two words. Another influence may be a folk belief that lie is for people and lay is for things. Some commentators are ready to abandon the distinction, suggesting that lay is on the rise socially. But if it does rise to respectability, it is sure to do so slowly: many people have invested effort in learning to keep lie and lay distinct. Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do.

Though this note concedes that the issue is not as clear as the Little, Brown Handbook implies, it does not examine the full complexity of the situation, as I will demonstrate.

Further/farther is considerably more confused. The Handbook says that "farther refers to additional distance . . . and further to additional time, amount, or other abstract matters" (p. 800). Again, this is a simple guideline, but one that Merriam-Webster does not agree with:

Farther and further have been used more or less interchangeably throughout most of their history, but currently they are showing signs of diverging. As adverbs they continue to be used interchangeably whenever spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved. But where there is no notion of distance, further is used <our techniques can be further refined>. Further is also used as a sentence modifier <further, the workshop participants were scarcely optimistic — L. B. Mayhew>, but farther is not. A polarizing process appears to be taking place in their adjective use. Farther is taking over the meaning of distance <the farther shore> and further the meaning of addition <needed no further invitation>.

Merriam-Webster clearly states that the two words are fundamentally interchangeable, with only partial specialization. The Handbook makes the case that the words are already distinct, though not in quite the manner Merriam-Webster predicts. However, as I will demonstrate below, neither guideline is an accurate reflection of usage, in the United States, Great Britain, or Australia.

For this study, I used the Cobuild corpus. This corpus has the advantage of containing several sub-corpora, with samples of American, British, and Australian English. To allow comparisons between the three variants, I have focused on written English in similar corpora for each country. The only spoken corpus, sampled from the United Kingdom, is used sparingly. My primary reason for this decision is that the general trends do not seem significantly different from that of writing; this is partly due to the formal nature of much of the speech, as well as possible bias in the transcription. A close examination of a causal spoken corpus would provide additional insight into the differences between lie/lay and further/farther.

I will examine further/farther first, because it proved easier to distinguish the two word forms. Most of the further/farther analysis was conducted directly from the corpus, using Cobuild's tools; only a few parts required a complete a complete scan or reading of the data. In contrast, for the lie/lay analysis I used Cobuild only for the source data, and all analysis was completed by hand. The need to do this work without the aid of a computer for data gathering (except the initial sample) meant that the much larger volumes of data for set/sit and rise/raise will have to await another researcher with more stamina, or a more robust set of corpus tools, than I. I will examine the limitations implied in such an analysis after describing the features of further/farther.

Further & Farther

Because the Merriam-Webster and Handbook usage notes do not agree on this pair of words, I started at the most basic level: frequency. Both books indicate that further is the more versatile word, and therefore should occur somewhat more frequently. Exactly how much more frequently is demonstrated in Table 1, a simple count of instances of each word.

Table 1: Frequency of farther and further by corpus.
  Farther Further  
Corpus Occurrence Occ./million Occurrence Occ./million Fa./Fu. ratio
US Books 172 30.6 831 147.7 0.171
UK Books 89 16.6 1,326 247.7 0.063
NPR 24 7.7 367 117.3 0.061
US Ephemeral 4 3.3 182 148.6 0.022
Oz News 9 1.7 1,289 241.5 0.007
UK Ephemeral 5 1.6 1,528 489.1 0.003
BBC 0 0.0 1,149 440.3 0.000
US Total 200 20.0 1,380 138.3 0.127
UK Total 94 8.5 4,003 361.0 0.023
Aust. Total 9 1.7 1,289 241.5 0.007

Table 2: Further used in contexts where farther is never used.
Corpus Verb % Cases Sentence Mod. % Cases
UK Books 21 1.6 39 2.9
UK Ephemeral 11 0.7 6 0.4
BBC 10 0.9 0 0
US Books 13 1.6 29 3.5
US Ephemeral 1 0.5 7 3.8
NPR 3 0.8 2 0.5
Oz News 16 1.2 17 1.3

The ratios of farther to further are clearly in favor of further. Obviously Australia and the United Kingdom have no respect for American usage notes: they have almost eliminated farther altogether. It is especially interesting to note that the BBC corpus contains absolutely no cases of farther. If farther has a meaning distinct from further, then surely it must have been used at least once; if the two words are interchangeable, then it seems probable that at least one speaker would choose farther over further at least once.

Formality does not play a strong role in these ratios: even the UK Spoken corpus has a farther to further ratio of .026, much smaller than that of NPR. It is also worth nothing that taking an absolute whom to who ratio, without taking into consideration those cases where whom is clearly not interchangeable with who, gives a range of .073 (UK Books) to .023 (NPR). Corpora I am not using drop down to .011, which is still higher than the Oz News ratio for farther/further. The UK Spoken corpus has a whom to who ratio of .013, at a time when most people consider whom to be on the decline and possibly obsolete. If whom is indeed approaching obsolete, then the numbers indicate that farther may be heading that direction as well.

As Merriam-Webster points out, further can be used in contexts that eliminate the possibility of substituting farther. I surveyed the cases of further to determine when, based on that usage note, farther cannot be used. Table 2 contains the results.

Clearly, these "extra" situations do not drastically shift the farther/further balance. The percentage of "extras" ranges from 0.9% (BBC) to 5.1% (US Books). However, it could still be possible that the American usage of farther is distinct from further. The best approach for determining the truth of this idea is to turn to the actual cases where farther is used.

The words following further and farther show the most promise for distinguishing between the two words. If farther is indeed restricted in some sense, then it should have a different and distinct set of words it collocates with. The words immediately following further and farther, divided geographically, are listed in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3: Top 20 words immediately following further, by t- & MI-scores.
UK US Australia
t MI t MI t MI
evidence afield information subdivided dollar downgrades
advice ado into complicating details afield
away outbreaks than delays information strengthen
north details details easing interest enhanced
south information away bloodshed than raids
study clarification discussion deterioration north purchases
talks deterioration evidence enlarged talks enhance
notice weakened obligation weaken action details
progress readings down obligation development submissions
reading tightened reading discussion expansion investigations
help isolate south details tests discussions
violence enhanced complicated irony down slide
development education development compensation damage notice
along humiliation by information back expansion
steps indication loss complicated into decline
research inland treatment insight afield talks
investigation confirmation along concessions discussions controversy
attacks strengthened steps examination notice information
back justification studies resolved investigation discussion
action enquiries from discussions from damage

Table 4: Top 10 words immediately following farther.
UK US Australia
word # t-score word # t-score word # t-score
away 8 2.81 north 20 4.46 south 2 1.41
on 7 2.40 away 19 4.34 inland 1 1.00
than 6 2.40 than 15 3.80 along 1 1.00
down 5 2.20 west 11 3.31 away 1 1.00
up 5 2.15 south 11 3.30 than 1 0.99
they 5 2.08 down 9 2.93 we 1 0.98
into 4 1.93 east 7 2.63 from 1 0.96
removed 3 1.73 on 9 2.58 and 1 0.80
west 3 1.71 back 66 2.37      
south 3 1.71 apart 5 2.23      

I did not use the Mutual Information score for the farther collocates because of the relatively small number of words; except for a few shifts in order, the collocates are identical.

Though I did not list t-scores for the further collocates, it is worth noting that the strongest farther collocates, even in the US list, are only barely as significant as the weakest of the top twenty further collocates. One implication of this result is that examining the words alone is not sufficient; the categories of words must be explicitly taken into account.

Several words appear on nearly all the t-score lists, most notably north, south, away, and than. This overlap between further and farther lends support to the contention of similarity made in Merriam-Webster. However, the further list includes many words that never follow farther, such as evidence, advice, and steps. In particular, the further list contains four words that have an unusually high percentage of collocations with further: afield (79% UK, 44% Aust.), downgrades (57% Aust.), details (9.2% UK), and information (8.8% UK). These words never follow farther, clearly indicating that further takes a range of words exclusively.

However, establishing that further is distinct from farther is not quite the same as arguing that farther is distinct from further. Most of the collocates for farther appear on the further list, always more strongly. But perhaps farther does take some literal sense of distance, as proposed by the Handbook, while further handles the other cases.

At first glance, it does indeed appear that using farther for literal distance is the distinguishing factor. Though farther is only used in this sense 46% of the time in NPR, it occurs 88% and 89% in UK Books and US Books, respectively. Oz News and US Ephemeral have only a single exception, while UK Ephemeral has none. Even in those exceptional cases, farther is usually used in a metaphorical distance sense.

(1) The traveler would get no farther, but at least avoided being eaten alive . . .
(2) Farther north and higher up, these rainstorms can be dangerous blizzards . . .
(3) . . . they seemed only to grow closer, while they watched their husbands grow farther apart.

So farther is certainly limited to a particular niche. Unfortunately for those hoping farther has established itself, that niche is not exclusive. For example, both Merriam-Webster and the Handbook contend that it is correct to say "the farther shore" or "farther inland," but not to use further. In fact, "further inland" does occur, and that from the same source as "farther inland": Oz News. "The father shore" may be inspired by exactly that quote used to justify the usage in Merriam-Webster, for the two cases of it are both British novels by "literary" authors.

(4) . . . while across by the farther shore, the mists were rising . . .
(5) . . . Mediterranean began cutting farther and farther inland capturing the waters . . .
(6) . . . It's going further and further inland and some farmers are at a stage . . .

There appears to be exactly one situation in which further cannot be used. Interestingly, the exception is in UK Books, not one of the US corpora. The construction "the farther they went" occurs four times, but "the further they," with or without "went," never occurs. However, this, like "the farther shore," may just be due to random chance rather than an actual difference.

(7) The way got darker the farther they went, and she stopped at last . . .

There is just a single remaining case left to analyze for words following further and farther. When the range following these words is extended to two, only one additional significant collocate occurs: the word itself. Both further and farther appear as collocates of themselves because of sentences like (5) and (6) above; many other examples can be found in each corpus. However, it is in fact not a distinguishing characteristic of either word in any geographic region; instead, it is just one more indication of the similar nature of the two words.

One last hope, listed in Tables 5 and 6, remains for farther. If some distinction exists in the words preceding further/farther, perhaps farther is distinct. Once again, only the t-score is needed and used for the farther samples, and the further collocates are always more significant than even the strongest farther ones.

Table 5: Top 20 words preceding further, arranged by t- & MI-scores.
UK US Australia
t MI t MI t MI
for shrank for await a step
a deteriorate any pending any comment
any Zanjan no step for announce
no spark even prevent no prevent
even provoke step seek step considering
still venture still any comment any
go require a avoid to seek
step prevent without even even facing
prevent requiring much still be sought
without develops go without prevent goes
much step prevent no go add
education preventing him bit without matter
require halt to rates little no
little claiming went moved much without
two stroke make gone would gone
until obtain from risk out even
need introduce be went make hold
provide seeking avoid go considering little
bit any until much goes go
stage considerably pending hear matter need

Table 6: Top 10 words preceding farther.
UK US Australia
word # t-score word # t-score word # t-score
the 19 3.09 much 12 3.41 5km 2 1.41
much 5 2.20 any 9 2.93 ricefields 1 1.00
little 4 1.98 go 8 2.77 performers 1 1.00
any 3 1.66 little 6 2.39 cutting 1 1.00
no 3 1.63 miles 5 2.22 even 1 0.99
is 4 1.59 no 5 2.06 no 1 0.99
and 6 1.47 step 4 1.99 and 1 0.80
bit 2 1.41 moving 3 1.72 the 1 0.50
still 2 1.37 still 3 1.65      
from 2 1.11 down 3 1.62      

However, this last resort rapidly demonstrates no hope for a distinction. No less than four words (much, any, no, still) appear on every list, and four more (bit, little, go, step) on a large majority. Fully seven of the ten top collocates for the US farther appear in the US further listings. Phrases such as "a step farther" and "a step further" appear commonly in both forms. Other matches, such as "no farther" and "much further" also appear in both forms, usually at the end of a clause.

(8) Going a step farther, if you view yourself as more conservative . . .
(9) Going a step further, is it acceptable to use human genes . . .
(10) Farther north and higher up, these rainstorms can be dangerous . . .
(11) Further north, 4,000 British soldiers were retiring towards Ladysmith . . .

Though it is possible to argue, primarily based on much higher frequency, that farther still serves a distinct purpose in American English, the argument is much harder for the United Kingdom and Australia. Farther is so rare that it clearly cannot be serving an important distinct purpose. Farther is less specialized in these regions, seeming to serve only as a limited alternative to further. In American English, the limited specialization of farther creates the impression of a distinct word, but further can always be used. Not one case of a noun following farther exists in the American corpora, but almost every case of farther can be matched with at least one nearly identical instance using further.

Lie vs. Lay

The following analysis is incomplete, but not unfinished. Lie/lay has several inherent problems for corpus analysis, not least of which is that the part-of-speech tags must be correct, because these words occur in several forms. Much of the Cobuild tagging for certain word forms (most notably lies and lay) is incorrect, though it appears that all verbs are actually tagged as such. The problem arises because many non-verbs appear in contexts that look like verbs to an automatic tagging routine.

Second, lie has two very distinct meanings, one of which is irrelevant for an analysis with lay. However, because I had to manually sort the various meanings of lie and its lemma, I did conduct a brief analysis of the different meanings.

Finally, lie/lay share an identical word form: lay. Cobuild cannot distinguish between these two forms, and so I had to read and sort every instance of this word. In many cases, even with an average of 20-25 words on either side of the node, it was not possible to determine whether the word was lay (present tense), lay (past tense of lie), or an intransitive use of lay (present tense). The numbers given below that depend on this sort are accurate, but the exact numbers may not be correct due to those few uncertain cases.

The main effect this work has for anyone wishing to check my data is that the numbers will not agree with Cobuild's initial output. The large size of the UK Spoken corpus and the difficulty in determining the words' parts of speech and tenses, meant I did not use this corpus in my analysis. I was also concerned about transcription bias, dialect, and slurring, because nearly all the corresponding forms of lie/lay sound similar.

Tables 7 and 8 display the frequency of the various word forms. Unlike further/farther, nothing is immediately obvious from this data regarding the relative usage of lie and lay. However, a geographic difference is visible: Oz News has a pattern very different from that of the US and UK corpora. It is the only corpus where the overall frequency of lay is similar to that of lie; in the others, lie is somewhat more common.

Table 7: Frequency of the lie lemma arranged by corpus.
  Lie Lies Lying Lain Lay
Corpus # #/mil # #/mil # #/mil # #/mil # #/mil
UK Books 174 32.5 262 48.9 235 43.9 14 2.6 631 117.9
UK Ephemeral 67 21.4 132 42.2 55 17.6 2 0.6 12 3.8
BBC 50 19.2 93 35.6 32 12.3 3 1.1 22 8.4
US Books 193 34.3 153 27.2 263 46.7 18 3.2 586 104.2
US Ephemeral 8 6.5 16 13.1 9 7.3 1 0.8 2 1.6
NPR 36 11.5 56 17.9 36 11.5 0 0.0 15 4.8
Oz News 56 10.5 135 25.3 92 17.2 5 0.9 71 13.3
UK Total 291 26.2 487 43.2 322 29.0 19 1.7 684 61.7
US Total 237 23.7 225 22.5 308 30.9 19 1.9 603 60.4

Table 8: Frequency of the lay lemma arranged by corpus.
  Lay Lays Laying Laid
Corpus # #/mil # #/mil # #/mil # #/mil
UK Books 83 15.5 9 1.7 43 8.0 319 59.6
UK Ephemeral 31 9.9 26 8.3 18 5.8 99 31.7
BBC 75 28.7 18 6.9 33 12.6 104 39.8
US Books 136 24.2 26 4.6 69 12.3 262 46.6
US Ephemeral 17 13.9 3 2.4 3 2.4 9 7.3
NPR 98 31.3 6 1.9 59 18.9 139 44.4
Oz News 60 11.2 17 3.2 37 6.9 171 32.0
UK Total 189 17.0 53 4.8 94 8.5 522 47.1
US Total 251 25.1 35 3.5 131 13.1 410 41.1

A look at the usage in the other Cobuild corpora indicates that Oz News may not be quite as distinct. The three British newspapers tend to fall around Oz News in usage for each word form, indicating that the distinction may be related to the medium rather than the geography. I did not perform a close analysis on the other newspaper corpora, but the percent "junk" in each corpus I did examine is similar enough that using the initial Cobuild estimates for this analysis is justified.

The UK Spoken corpus consistently sits at the bottom of the frequency lists for these words, never more than third least frequent. The overall distribution of frequency does not appear to significantly different from that of the written corpora, so I do not believe leaving it out of this analysis is a major oversight.

Table 9 lists the number of "incorrect" cases for all word forms, assuming that the lie is intransitive and lay transitive. These numbers are conservative, because I assumed the usage was "correct" if I was uncertain of a particular word.

Table 9: Occurrences of incorrect cases (according to usage in Merriam-Webster), by word.
  Lie Lay
Corpus Lie Lies Lying Lain Lay Lay Lays Laying Laid
UK Books 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 3
UK Ephemeral 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0
BBC 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
US Books 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 1 0
US Ephemeral 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 2 0
NPR 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 10 2
Oz News 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
UK Total 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 1 3
US Total 0 1 0 0 0 14 2 13 3

Even without considering the NPR corpus, which contains most of the intransitive forms of lay (almost two-thirds), it is clear that lay has a tendency toward intransitivity. Just as interesting, lie has a much weaker tendency toward transitivity. This is an immediate indication that lay may be functioning as lie, with little occurring in the other direction.

(12) Brenndorf was laying feverish, in the field hospital near the airstrip.
(13) I reckon she would have been really exhausted just laid down and curled up.
(14) He lies him down upon a bank of flowers.

Note that (14) involves a person, which will be discussed below.

The NPR corpus is especially interesting. Because NPR is spoken, it is possible for speakers to make small substitutions even in scripted speech. As with the choice between further/farther, this can be interpreted as a natural tendency inserting itself on the fly.

(15) . . . a student got out of his chair and laid down on the floor . . .
(16) . . . because the Bulls are up we're supposed to lay down and die . . .
(17) And I got ahold of the little girl that was also laying down in the aisle.

The written corpora have certainly gone through a series of edits before being released. If we assume that NPR is a more accurate reflection of how people use the words without correcting themselves, then the low numbers for other corpora are still significant. There we see the leftovers of a possibly large number of edits to remove such "mistakes." Particularly in the US, there does seem to some tendency to use lay intransitively.

A simple analysis of "mistakes" in the corpora is not enough to argue conclusively that lay is or is not serving as an intransitive verb. To provide more information, the context of the words must be examined. I focus on the US Books corpus for the following data, but only as a representative of all corpora. I performed the same analysis on approximately 20 sentence samples for the words in the other corpora, and found no significant differences in trends. The only exception are the "incorrect" usages in NPR, but the examples (15) - (17) demonstrate those.

Tables 10 and 11 examine the differences in words and phrases following lie and lay when the following word is not a preposition. As can quickly be seen, usually less than 50% of the lie forms come before something other than a preposition, whereas the lay forms generally have about 50% followed by a noun or noun phrase, in addition to a smattering of other types. I did not remove the intransitive forms of lay or the transitive forms of lie, but their numbers are small enough not to significantly change these percentages.

Table 10: Frequency of non-prepositions following lie lemma (percent, US Books).
  Lie Lies Lying Lain Lay
None 7.8 4.6 2.7 16.7 4.0
Adjective/Adverb 34.2 17.6 40.0 16.7 42.5
Verb 1.0 2.0 0.8 0.0 3.4
Noun (phrase) 1.6 16.3 0.0 0.0 10.8

Table 11: Frequency of non-prepositions following lay lemma (percent, US Books).
  Lay Lays Laying Laid
None 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.3
Adjective/Adverb 3.8 0.0 1.4 2.3
Verb 13.2 7.7 1.4 4.2
Noun (phrase) 61.0 50.0 24.6 43.5

These breakdowns are basically a reflection of the generally strong intransitivity of lie and the strong transitivity of lay. Given that most of these sentences have been carefully edited to ensure exactly this, the results are not surprising. The prepositions following the words is a more interesting study.

Table 12: Top 5 preposition collocates for lie lemma by t-score (US Books).
Lie Lies Lying Lain Lay
word # word # word # word # word #
down 42 in 37 on 66 in 4 in 87
in 37 down 10 in 45 under 1 on 54
on 14 at 9 down 18 on 1 down 34
at 5 on 9 beside 4     beside 8
underneath 1 behind 4 next 4     behind 6

Table 13: Top 5 preposition collocates for lay lemma by t-score (US Books).
Lay Lays Laying Laid
word # word # word # word #
down 10 down 3 down 8 out 51
out 9 out 3 on 10 down 32
off 6 to 1 out 7 on 8
on 4     off 1 in 8
before 1     over 1 upon 4

Suddenly the sharp distinction between the two words disappears. Because of the greater number of prepositions following lie, the t-scores were somewhat higher. I did include a few cases as prepositions for lay where a pronoun "interfered" but the sentence was otherwise similar to others with that preposition.

(18) As soon as I laid down my burden . . .
(19) When he laid her down in her own bed . . .

Obviously, down and on are the two prepositions of choice, both appearing in all but one list: lain is missing down, while lays is not followed by on. Each lemma is almost internally uniform in its preference for prepositions; only the order and the least frequent words change, and that only slightly.

For lie, in, on, and down almost always occur when the subject is a person.

(20) She is not even allowed to lie down to sleep . . .
(21) He lay on the bed, feeling spiteful toward . . .
(22) Lying in bed in the dark, Walker talked about . . .

Lay uses two prepositions, off and out, that are extremely rare following lie.

(23) . . . Dr. James Dwight laid out a court for play at Nahant . . .
(24) . . . Sam McKenzie's company had to lay off workers . . .

Perhaps it is the prepositions and subject matter that leads to the confusion between the words, rather than a matter of grammar. Similarity not only occurs in the meaning and sound of the words, but also in their preposition selection. However, the argument for combining the two words loses some strength when a close look is taken at the objects for each verb. Tables 14 and 15 give a breakdown of those percentages.

Table 14: Subjects of lie lemma (percent, US Books); "body part" is percentage of "literal."
  Lie Lies Lying Lain Lay
Literal (non-person) 13.0 18.3 21.3 33.3 29.7
Body Part 16.0 10.7 3.6 33.3 11.5
Metaphorical 24.9 60.8 1.9 11.1 22.2
Person 62.2 20.9 76.8 55.6 48.1

Table 15: Subjects of lay lemma (percent, US Books)); "body part" is percentage of "literal."
  Lay Lays Laying Laid
Literal (non-person) 37.5 57.7 55.1 54.6
Body Part 41.1 40.0 28.9 31.9
Metaphorical 47.8 30.8 30.4 33.2
Person 14.0 11.5 14.5 11.5

Though the much higher frequency of literal meanings for lay over lie could probably be attributed to the transitivity issue, the difference in people cannot be. In all cases of lie, over fifty percent of the objects, and up to 83%, are people. In contrast, lay is never used for a person more even 15% of the time, and nearly all of those cases refer to a person who is unconscious or otherwise unable to move him- or herself.

(25) . . . that no Nazi pig could lay a hand on him.
(26) . . . and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed . . .

Body parts are almost always used with a transitive form. About a third of all literal cases for lay are body parts, usually hands. In addition to having low overall literal frequencies, lie also has a lower frequency for body parts within those meanings. This difference makes the already large difference for people as objects more apparent, indicating that the decision to use lie instead of lay is perhaps a conscious self-correction.

Though I cannot extract such information from any corpus, a worthwhile addition to this study would be to examine the act of constructing sentences using these two words. It is possible that writers deliberately create a need for an intransitive verb when they are writing about a person, and do not worry about the distinction when writing about anything else. Once the cases were a person is the object are removed from the count, the forms of lay are clearly dominant over those for lie. Though it is at best a preliminary comparison, because I did only moderate filtering on the samples, the ratios of sit/set and rise/raise are considerably smaller than 1, i.e. in favor of the transitive verb. Therefore, predicting a similar state for lie/lay is perhaps justified, once the person-as-an-object motive is removed.

One final area of discussion remains. Table 16 shows the number of cases and percentage of total cases where lie is used to mean "tell an untruth." Two details are interesting to note.

Table 16: Frequency of lie lemma used to mean "tell an untruth."
  Lie Lies Lying Lied
Corpus # % # % # % # %
UK Books 61 26.0 10 3.7 57 19.5 41 100.0
UK Ephemeral 7 1.2 0 0.0 1 1.8 2 100.0
BBC 1 2.0 0 0.0 6 15.8 9 100.0
US Books 64 24.9 5 3.2 72 21.5 87 100.0
US Ephemeral 0 0.0 0 0.0 1 10.0 0 0.0
NPR 5 12.2 1 1.8 31 46.3 30 96.8
Oz News 11 16.4 4 2.9 28 23.3 42 100.0
UK Total 69 19.2 10 2.0 64 16.6 52 100.0
US Total 69 22.5 6 2.6 104 25.2 117 99.2

First, particularly in US Books, the percentages are significant. If the person-as-an-object cases are removed, these percentages approach or exceed 50% of all cases for these words. In this sense, lie is generally used intransitively, so should perhaps push the other uses of lie in that direction. However, without the person cases, lie does not seem to be an unusually strong competitor for lay, so no push seems to exist.

Second, lied is used exactly once ever to mean something other than "told an untruth." That example is probably due to a typo, as lie is required for verb agreement:

(27) . . . says Croatian and Serbian media fueled ethnic hatred that lied under the surface.

However, given the other similarities between lie and lay, it seems odd that lied would never occur when it has a seeming exact counterpart in laid. When compared to Table 9, the frequency of "mistakes," it seems to make more sense. Very few "mistakes" are ever made with the lie lemma, whereas some are present in every corpus for lay. The lack of mistakes for lied lends more support to my hypothesis that lay is frequently the more natural choice, and is often "corrected" to lie.


Neither explanation, in Merriam-Webster or The Little, Brown Handbook, accounts for the actual usage of further/farther. Though both are largely correct when they claim farther is restricted to phrases involving literal distance, they assume that further is therefore restricted from that category. Indeed, both books list their usage notes under farther, not further. As I have shown above, American English retains a small area of use for farther but does not restrict further; British and Australian English treat farther as an essentially obsolete word.

However, the Handbook is simply wrong when they claim lay is exclusively transitive. Though it is predominantly so, my arguments above clearly indicate that Merriam-Webster is closer to the truth. However, that usage note assumes that people have somehow internalized that lie is intransitive and lay transitive, so a change would necessarily be slow. I contend that though lie is indeed intransitive, lay is not restricted to transitive uses, and only a conscious effort forces it to appear that way. If the "rules" requiring that lay be transitive were removed, I strongly suspect that lay would rapidly take over many, though certainly not all, of the intransitive lie uses.


Fowler, H Ramsey, & Jane E. Aaron. The Little, Brown Handbook, 7th ed. Longman: New York, 1998.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed., electronic version. Zane Publishing: Dallas, 1996.

Data Appendix (all taken from US Books as random (filtered) samples)

a fusion of the spiritual and political. Being closer to India, and farther from the court in Lhasa however, has meant that the Panchen Lamas
people who live on its banks have their own terms for it. In the lands farther north which represent a typical Nepalese confusion of Hinduism and
patches of level ground between the river and the high, barren cliffs. Farther north still in an area Tibetan in language as well as religion, the
falls of Rukse Chara they held a meeting and elected to head farther north, and at a spot not far from Larjung, which marks the real
the valley even Buddhist temples might display a few saligrams, but the farther away one goes the more precious they become, and any pilgrim who has
been around Ghorapani, or near the col that leads to Tatopani a day farther on. At any rate, he had hurt his hip so badly that he was unable to
that its inhabitants were followers of the Bon. Then, several days farther on, he surprised his guide -- who had been instructed to lead him on
and the dogs in a state of armed truce. The traveler would get no farther, but at least avoided being eaten alive while he waited for events to
Winter always seems to produce a few days of rain in the Himalayas. Farther north and higher up, these rainstorms can be dangerous blizzards, but
but encouraging. The rain of the previous month had been heavy snow farther on, and though the high passes were relatively clear, to reach them
made surfing a year-round sport in colder climates and extended surfing farther north than before. Televised National Hockey League games played
in Canada, where it upsets the chemical balance of the soil or, flowing farther, may turn a lake into a watery desert, empty of plant or animal life.
with greater energy is in excited state 1, then 2, and so on in farther-out orbits. When an electron loses energy, it drops from an orbit to
the small end of the cone, and you're hit with a small disk of water. Farther away from the showerhead, you're hit with a larger disk. Notice the
is better" but that more power enables scientists to split farther and farther down the scale of elementary particles. The farthest down anyone
adding heat energy), and some outer electrons in the iron atoms jump to farther-out orbits - exact orbits, not just a little more and still a little
battery wire. The radio can be several feet from the wire. And still farther? To the ends of space: The only limit is the sensitivity of the
we can stay close to home and call it a day after a few hours or tarry farther and thereby longer, or even station ourselves in a geostationary
funds: equity-income, balanced, and growth and income. Going a step farther, if you view yourself as more conservative than aggressive, then
can sometimes be built into your commute to work. Could you park farther away or get off a stop or two earlier and walk for a while? Could you
terrific in a bathing suit, I'm a pretty good swimmer. Now I'm swimming farther and better all the time. Although my weight hasn't changed much,
range Leo was busy planting turnips and onions in the garden, while farther out Shaerl was occupied with a neighbor's bay mare. An inconstant
and then the sawhorses on which the scull rested were pushed farther toward the wall. While they did this, Mrs. Dambar mentioned that
had been good on the fall crop, the last of which was coming in. In a farther section, near the pasture, Leo had already begun spring planting.
Another nudge, and then Leo had taken him by the arm and led him farther from the aisle of towels, where Mrs. Howard was standing. Leo,


foremost scholars) and the man to whom that tutor had referred him for further knowledge? There are in fact two possible explanations. One is
from having anything like a definite program for my journey. I told him further that I intended to wander on as the course of events might lead me. I
had committed with each other when young." And, as if he needed any further education on the subject, `they taught me how great was the power of
00 a.m but his day was not over. Kawaguchi was determined to push on a further eight miles, where there was said to be a house they could shelter
known to have visited either nation before, but Nepal had about it the further attraction that within its borders was Lumbini, the birthplace of the
cool and pleasant with little chance of rain, and the snow reaches further down the mountainsides than at any other time of year, enhancing
never a very good organization man. In March 1906, after a month of further Sanskrit study at Tagore's Shanta Nigetan, north of Calcutta,
few days, including a night as the guest of the district chief -- a further test of his disguise. His medical skills ('a sickly old woman came to
cross those high passes must have taxed his strength to the utmost; any further visits would require him in the meantime to keep his body, and above
point thermometers concealed in walking sticks). But there was a further, less immediate reason for Tibetan paranoia, one symptomatic of a
Composing himself, he greeted the man with a smile, and surprised him further by suggesting they celebrate their reunion with a little drink. Not
named. In September, Seton Hall U. announced it would withdraw from further tournament competition and play its home games in its own gymnasium.
in the grand jury probe that began on Apr. 4. As the summer progressed, further revelations and indictments showed the practice of point-shaving to
the last fan, it is under tremendous pressure, which is boosted still further by burning the air with the engine fuel. Under tremendous pressure,
has nothing to do with chocolate syrup.) These flavors, to tease you further, have been labeled up, down, strange, charm, top, and
of these increasingly tiny phenomena - down to this point! To go further, we have to give up our belief in common sense. We enter a field
cosmology. With all that enticement, you may wish to go further: There are only two basic parts - one that rotates, called a
to patent such animals, created by genetic engineering. Going a step further, is it acceptable to use human genes to modify animals? For
it hears low-volume middle-range notes. Turn the volume control still further down: the deep notes and the high notes will fade out completely,
up there after the engines stop? Headed in the right direction, with no further power needed, we can just keep going, to the end of time. (Newton's
brought to earth, would weigh several tons. The dwarf, incapable of further nuclear reactions, cools slowly over hundreds of millions of years.
municipals (taxable munis) are not tax-exempt at the federal level; further, having income from some municipal bonds may subject you to the
invest in them if you happen to be well-heeled. Nothing could be further from the truth! Mutual funds can meet the needs of just about any
asset allocation scheme and a diversified portfolio of securities can further reduce your risk, without getting in the way of potential return.
because she felt less attractive, her self-confidence diminished even further. In fact, self-consciousness is a common symptom of poor body image.
taught these `truths" through the process of socialization (discussed further in Chapter 3). Objectification As a woman, you're expected to be
The game of girl watching leads to a kind of self-objectification that further distorts body image and erodes self-esteem. Piece by piece, we start
laugh, or move around? Now turn back the pages of your album still further. This time visualize yourself in the playground of your elementary
parents, your mate, or the voices from your past. Go a step further with your mirror. Choose an item from your praise list and silently
you to weigh more. (See the Resource section on food and weight for further information about setpoint theory People differ. Some have a wide
her marriage had its usual ups and downs. To carry this exercise further, try putting your responses on paper and taking a hard look at them.
fudge sundae it doesn't break your diet or give you an excuse to binge further. After a splurge, just get right back on the healthy eating track.
stay fit. The more you move, the freer you become to move even further. Fitness comes from working against gravity, from increasing your
is determined by social as well as physical factors. The cult of youth further concentrates women's social power in the ornamental role. Yet it's
obvious motivation behind your desire for this makeover, think about it further to see if you can discover additional motives that are more subtle
how we think of it reveals, finally, what and how we value ourselves. Further Reading Boyle, R. H. and Boyle, R. A. Acid Rain. 1983 New


and my reading the Scriptures earned me so many gifts, that I had now laid by a considerable sum of money, and I was living on the food given me
town, however, it is obvious that there is money here. The streets are laid out in straight lines. The houses are large and roomy, rivaled in rural
backs on the rifle fire. Eventually the British and Indian soldiers laid down their guns without waiting for orders and went about collecting
in his published writing. So he made plans to escape, plans first laid in Kathmandu. Instead of the five hundred yen he had gone with the
again stayed with his old friend Chandra Das. At this point he was laid low -- rather ignominiously -- by a serious case of hemorrhoids.
became mired in quicksand. Then, standing on one stick which he had laid flat, he used the other to maneuver himself to the bank &hellip and he
the Athletics 27-10. The first intentional bunt in baseball was laid down by Dickey Pierce of the Brooklyn Atlantics. Aug. 13 In an
set aside grounds for courts. Perhaps concurrently, Dr. James Dwight laid out a court for play at Nahant, a seaside resort 9 mi. from Boston.


formative years, his biggest problems, and his greatest triumphs still lay ahead of him. Only three years later, in 1904, he would flee from a
climate. But, though the scholar in Kawaguchi must have been pleased to lay his hands on them, the traveler can only have been frustrated at being
the energy content of these particles, they respond in quantum jumps. Lay an iron nail in a fire (adding heat energy), and some outer electrons
you can stir up the ghosts that inhabit your body image - and perhaps lay some of them to rest. Begin all visualization exercises by sitting
Mr. Dambar had planned to march straight over to the trailer and lay everything on the line; but now that Leo wasn't here, it would have to
Even though she had a million or two in her name, she could hardly lay her hands on a cent. And, of course, in this day and age a couple
you can pay me back." No, it's not right. You shouldn't have to lay out bread like this." Mr. Dambar laid a hand on Leo's shoulder.
aloud, and after reaching for a scrap of paper on the desk, wrote: `Now I lay me down to sleep, fourteen angels round me keep." It was the tune that


his new companions until they were within sight of Mt Kailash. On first laying eyes on the holy mountain Kawaguchi was quite overcome. He confessed
eyes became more distinct. I don't understand," he said finally, laying the pink sheet on the desk. `What is this?" It's her handwriting,
to blunder through the mass of connections that makes up climate, laying the ground for changes we cannot predict. For example, carbon dioxide
I saw three, but I'm going to put four in the picture. I think she was laying another one. This is the greatest discovery I ever made in my entire
have pushed em out that way after he fell down, but if you do that laying on the ground, looks like it would push your pants cuffs away from
the cave." You been with the whores over at Flagstaff? You been laying with any kinfolks?" Too old," Tso said. He smiled slightly.
you." I know that," said Michael. Pull up a chair," she smiled, laying down her Danielle Steel novel. `I haven't talked to a grown-up in
God listens to prayers. A wave of hot pride flooded him. She was laying her life at his feet. With a gesture of his hand he could own her
were seeking a way to keep a hold over Eva, trying to buy her loyalty, laying the basis for future demands. Cross could feel that the Party was
hoot, again. Closer by, the brook scuppled its reluctant course, laying out a blueprint for revision. Horton attended the darkness and


They even used pillars made of cherry wood &hellip; Reluctantly, he lays the question aside as impossible for him to solve. They were now
person numerous clues to the body's state of health. A grocery clerk lays a bunch of bananas on a computer-equipped scale. The weight of the
plan is nothing more than a simple, preferably written, statement that lays out how your accumulated investment capital will be invested for the
as normal. There are few role models for unwavering honesty, and this lays the groundwork for denial. Addiction thrives on dishonesty. Because
with the older man like a small dog who drags a dead thing home and lays it adoringly on the doorstep of his master. Michael looked up from
around the world. BOOK 1: DREAD Dread is an alien power which lays hold of an individual, and yet one cannot tear oneself away, nor has a
like Herb, confronted with the owner of a brand-new home, hastily lays sod and jams foundation beds with young evergreens - which will all
Trinity, has such power that it takes all strength from the body and lays the soul bare to itself. Thus it sees itself as one of the blessed and
in Holy Trinity `as a child finds itself under its mother's cloak and lays its head on her breast" (7.27). There is an incredible tenderness in
from me. Where trouble comes to man and he flees to her in remorse, she lays her gentle hand on what is crooked, while I stand by powerless and dumb
this teaching as divine encouragement to persist. Accordingly, she lays out her dilemma still again. The `higher judgment" of her revelations


Atlantic. However, for the past several days a mass of polar air had lain against a mass of warm, tropical air in the atmosphere over New
overhead, flooding the north side of the cliffs with light, he had lain under a growth of brush, resting and listening. And in this silence he
once again up behind that great slab of stone to the place where he had lain when the fire was burning. Goldrims would have to climb after him to
had found him lying wounded. He had been in a drunken street brawl, had lain unconscious in subzero weather, and had died a day later in an army
incinerator The crumpled handkerchief showed burnt spots where it had lain on a pile of hot ashes; in fact, one corner was charred black&hellip;He


prickly points of bramble and weeds penetrating the thin rug on which I lay, and a shower of rain &hellip; " An almost audible sigh escapes from
he probably seldom noticed or had time to gaze toward Kanchenjunga which lay between him and his goal. It must have been a pleasant time for him. `I
came from an area where miracles were common: Uddayana, or Urgyan, which lay somewhere to the northwest of today's Kashmir, or possibly in Swat on
better time than did their rather nervous guest of honor. For before him lay an uncertain journey along the Yamdruk Tso to Gyantse, and then
between Phari and Yatung, the latter being the border town beyond which lay Kalimpong and Darjeeling. At any time, he knew, he might be overtaken,
European aristocracy without in the least understanding or caring what lay behind them. Thus from the floor of the Kathmandu Valley arose -- as
million years ago all of the Himalayas, as well as the plains of Tibet, lay on the ocean floor. Throughout India and Nepal these fossils are


everyone has always seemed to agree is that the provinces of U and Tsang lie at the heart of it all. Perhaps the closest one can come to a
to conform to the strictest moral principles. She is not even allowed to lie down to sleep, but must pass her nights in a posture of meditation. To
to break the whole thing up a `passive spectator &hellip; for I had to lie prostrate from the pain after a good roundhouse punch to the jaw.
lookout for stolen treasure. The MRI technician invites patients to lie on a bed placed inside a powerful electromagnet, whose field is of the
as long as there have been organized securities markets. Such concerns lie at the very heart of the mutual fund concept and, in large part, are
twenty minutes) and label it `For Relaxation and Visualization." Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place. Close your eyes and dim the lights to
gave him time to reconsider. Perhaps it was better to let sleeping dogs lie. Gretchen was, after all, so sensitive about her cousin; the least
about this country's literacy, and well, I wasn't going to let it just lie there. So I pulled over and went back and picked it up." Oh. Well,


the next eighteen years. This beautiful and curiously shaped lake lies at around fifteen thousand feet, and for once Kawaguchi must be
is also built at the foot of the rocky hills, but unlike its rival it lies within sight of the Potala, four miles distant. The walk to the
of the Theravada have never appreciated the label. The difference lies principally in the revolutionary notion of the Bodhisattva, which
reaching it by whatever route -- was no mean achievement. The lake which lies on an empty plain where nothing grows, is sacred to Hindus and
temperature, and other natural forces. One of these breeding grounds lies over the Caribbean tropical seas; its offspring emerge moist and warm -
to the 90th parallel north at the North Pole. A similar set of parallels lies to the south of the equator. The meridians of longitude,
proposed the theory that the material for billions of potential comets lies in a sphere (now called the Oort comet cloud) around the solar system


body, stiff and numb in every part." It took two more hours of lying in the sun on the riverbank and trying to massage himself with his
spend as much time on the ground as their feet. The action involves lying at full length, arms stretched out before one's head, and touching the
awoke at about half past five, I also rose and told him that the man lying there was a dear friend of mine and that I would have him treated with
is really a projection microscope. Look at a small drop of water lying on a leaf, a patterned countertop, or some other nonabsorbing surface.
of them to rest. Begin all visualization exercises by sitting or lying down. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and take time to clear your
the pond. A twenty-five-pound bag of Purina Floating Catfish Chow was lying on its side, open, on the dirt floor. `I asked Leo to be careful,
place," Mrs. Dambar said as she slowed for a large, tawny dog that was lying in the middle of the road. Not budging, it gave her a look as she
When he got home from the office that evening he noticed the book lying on a patch of yellowed grass near the sundial. Picking the swollen
bathroom - as if it made any difference in the dark. When they were lying side by side on the high bed, whose springs needed oiling, he waited a
people might tend to add question marks in hospitals. `Frank?" He was lying there plain as day, a starchy sheet covering the lower half of his
in the traffic, she glanced doubtfully at the large, tawny dog that was lying in the road beside the car. Someone should really do something about
fountain they stood for a few moments looking at the pennies and nickels lying at the bottom of the shallow pool. You want to like go look at
thirty, which left Mrs. Dambar at loose ends for two and a half hours. Lying upon the bed, unable to doze off, consumed twenty minutes. Looking at