The secrets to paragraph writing lay in four essential elements, which when used correctly, can make a okay paragraph into a great paragraph.

I think lay in should be corrected to lie in, but I am not sure.. please tell me if this sentence is correct..

2 Answers 2


You are correct that it should be 'lie in'. The nitty-gritty grammar reason is that 'lay' requires a direct object (that is, you must lay something somewhere) because it is a transitive verb, while 'lie' is intransitive and therefore does not require a direct object. Also, it should be an ok paragraph not a ok paragraph.

Hope this helps!

  • Thank you for the reply! I forgot to write it, but a native speaker that I asked said that lay in is a phrasal verb, which means to put something together and or to put in place, and it can be seen in writing mostly. So my another question is : Is the native speaker right if lay in is a phrasal verb in this sentence?
    – urggggh
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 16:48
  • 1
    @urggggh No, it doesn't apply to the sentence in your question—which is (incorrectly) using the actual verb. The sentence I am going to lay in some supplies does use the phrasal verb you're thinking of. It doesn't mean "to lie down in them," or "to be found in them." It means "to stock up on and store them." Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 19:55

There is a verb "to lay", which is a transitive verb meaning "to place", and a verb "to lie", which is an intransitive for which one meaning is "to reside". "Lay" can be the present tense of "to lay" or the past tense of "to lie". These words are often confused, both because the past tense of "to lie" is the same as the present tense of "to lay", and because "to lay" is in some sense the "transitive version" of "to lie"; if A lays B in place C, then B is now lying in place C.

Neither meaning fits here: "lay" is being used intransitively, so it's not the present tense of "to lay". While it would not be grammatically incorrect for "lay" to be the past tense of "to lie" here, it wouldn't make sense logically: that would mean that the secrets used to be in those elements, but aren't anymore. There would be other contexts where it would make sense, such as "The success of That Seventies Show lay in its appeal to nostalgia".

  • This answer is confusing. It explains the logic and grammar, but never actually answers the question -- what's the correct word? It almost seems to say that neither word is acceptable.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:49
  • The question asks whether the sentence is correct, and I responded that neither meaning of "lay" fits. I think that answers the question. The question didn't ask what the correct word is. Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:50
  • He also wrote "I think lay in should be corrected to lie in", obliquely asking whether he should make that correction.
    – Barmar
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 18:55

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