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Are both "focus lies" and "focus lays" grammatically correct? Do they mean the same?

Examples

Our focus lays on the electronic and mechanic sectors.

Our focus lies in renewable energy sources.

EDIT: Help using "lie" and "lay" correctly says

To Lay – to put or place something. To Lie – to rest or recline.

Is focus put there or is it resting there? I don't know. At the moment Google shows some 573 mil results for "focus lies on" and 72 mil results for "focus lays on" so both forms are used widely.

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    Does this answer your question? Help using "lie" and "lay" correctly Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:49
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    Picture this: Either our focus is sitting there, or We lay our focus there. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 16:06
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    Why use either one? A simple is will do it. The important description is of where, not who's involved as agent. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 16:11
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    "Lies" is fine. "Lays" is wrong (as is "dramatically").
    – TonyK
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:23
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    Those aren't the numbers of Google hits I get. A lot of the early hits are of the form "Is 'focus lays on' correct? and there are other false positives. But lay [on] is almost always transitive. You lay X on Y. X doesn't lay on Y (unless X is a hen and Y a nest). Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 12:33

2 Answers 2

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It's a lie-lay conundrum. Transitive vs. intransitive.

Your first example is grammatically incorrect and should read:

Our focus lies on the electronic and mechanic sectors.

Your second example is correct.

A transitive verb takes a direct object.

In "I like fruits" and "she makes cakes," the verbs "like" and "makes" are transitive.

An intransitive verb does not take a direct object.

In "she spoke softly" and "I run fast," the verbs "spoke" and "run" are intransitive.

Lay is transitive, takes an object. For example: "She laid the notebook on the table."

lay

to place (someone or something) down gently in a flat position

Note the tenses of lay: “lay, laid, laid” (to place or put down)

Lie is intransitive, does not take an object. For example: "My dog lies here." "She lay unconscious on the bed." The past tense of lie is lay.

lie

to be located in a particular place

Tenses of lie: “lie, lay, lain” (to recline or remain)

There are many verbs which are both transitive and intransitive.

For example: "She has been singing all day." "She has been singing the same song all day."

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  • I think your answer and additional commentary are quite useful and explain your reasoning quite well. However, your discussion of "lie" and its tenses and definition don't exactly fit/apply to the example sentence: "Our focus lies on the electronic and mechanic sectors." I don't think "our focus" is in a flat position on a surface. Perhaps a different definition would fit better for the OPs question? Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 7:35
  • @Zonker.in.Geneva, fair enough! I failed to notice it. Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 20:35
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I've spent my life listening to "'Lie', not 'Lay'" and its ever so pleasant variations. Here it is clearly "focus 'lies' not 'lays'".

I delight in the distinction of Transitive over Intransitive but the problem here is also usage and consistency.

The meaning of "Our focus lies on the electronic and mechanic sectors." is that the focus is already there, is there currently. This is distinct from the mistaken usage; "Our focus lays there." which would mean our focus is in action, on the way to being there. Painful and quite incorrect for this sentence. Laying describes an action, not a static condition.

More important (what I forgot) is the fact that the expression being used has no physical reality. Whether the focus lays or lies is not the point of the sentence. Focus here means The emphasis of our various sectors. The physical nature of transitive or intransitive matters only by way of habit. In this case the habit of our Usage of the terms. According to the numbers 'Lies" is still in the lead.

Such common usage would account for your millions being 573 to 72 give or take. My Mother will get back to each of those poor 72 mil.

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