Tricky Grammar

In this post, we are discussing some commonly confused words: lie and lay, lately and recently, since and for, past and last, back and before, affect and effect

1. Lie and Lay:

First of all, let us look at the verb forms for each of these words:

Lie        lay       lain

Lay       laid     laid

Now, ‘lie’ means ‘to lie on your own’, i.e., ‘to be in the position or state of rest’.


a. I lie on the floor

b. I like lying under the tree.



Note that in the past tense, ‘lie’ becomes ‘lay’.


I lay down on my bed the whole day yesterday. Or

I lay on my bed the whole day yesterday.

‘Lay’, on the other side, means ‘to carry’ or ‘to put something in horizontal position’.

For example:

a. I lay the book on the table.

b. I lay the child on bed.

In the past tense, we use ‘laid’. For example: 

a. I laid the novel aside and slept.


References from the news: 

“15 charges were laid against Philip Sprentzel for offences related to the break-ins that occurred in Surrey”. (Voice Online)

“Wreaths laid at National War Memorial for martyrs in Pune.” (Times of India)

“The Female Architects Who Laid the Blueprint- The documentarian Joseph Hillel chronicles the lives of four brilliant women, who helped pave the way in a male-dominated field.” (NY Times)

On the side note, ‘lie’ has another meaning when it is used as a noun: to tell a lie (i.e. the opposite of truth)

2. Lately and Recently:

Both can be used with present perfect tense, however, ‘recently’ can also be used with simple past tense. Example:

  1. I have not been feeling well lately.
  2. Recently, I bought a new car.
  3. Recently, we have seen a sharp increase in the oil prices.

3. Since and For:

‘Since’ means ‘starting point’, whereas ‘for’ means ‘how long’. Besides, while ‘since’ is used as time reference in perfect tenses, ‘for’ can also be used for simple past tense. Example:

  1. I have not seen her since we graduated. (‘Since’ in perfect tense)
  2. I have not seen her for 5 years. ( ‘for’ in perfect tense)
  3. I did not meet her for 5 years. (‘for’ in simple past tense)

4. Past and Last:

‘Past’ (adjective) is used to indicate what happened before now or present. Example:

In the past two years, I have seen major improvement in my health. 

In this sense, the meaning of ‘past’ and ‘last’ is same. Other than this, past also means ‘to cross’. For example, he walked past me. 

Other contexts:

a.He believes that he had a past life.

b.In the past, I never gave importance to my personal life.

Last can be used as adjective, adverb, and pronoun: It means most recent or just before the present one. For example, in 2020, last year means 2019. Last also means ‘final phase’. For example: In his last three years (last three years before he died), he was happy and contented with his life. 


a.Last Monday, I watched a movie with my whole family.

b.The last three months have been challenging due to the lockdown.

References from news: 

“One in two Indian companies have experienced a data breach involving the loss or theft of more than 1,000 records containing sensitive or confidential customer or business information in the past 2 years” (CRN)

“Eleven North Korean defectors returned to their homeland from South Korea in the past five years, the Unification Ministry here said.” (Daiji World)

“If he does get to 300, he would have gone past names like Gary Sobers (235), Michael Holding (249) and Joel Garner (259).” (The Statesman)

5. Ago, Before and Back: 

Ago counts back before the present time.


5 years ago, I was in Los Angeles.  

Both ‘ago’ and ‘back’ are used in the same way. On the other side, ‘before’ can mean any time before another time in the past. ‘Earlier’ and ‘previously’ can also be used instead of ‘before’.


a.I had caught him before he fell.

b.I finally got Tulsi plant again as a gift in June. I was gifted one a year before. (a year before June)


6. Affect and Effect: 

Affect can be used both as a verb and a noun. As a verb it means to ‘influence’, ‘to produce an effect’ or ‘to change someone or something’.

For example:

a. Her life was greatly affected by Gandhi’s words.

b.The virus affected the entire village.

c. The lockdown has affected many lives.

Effect as a noun means to implement or execute.

Example: The new law will come into effect from April 1, 2021.

Effect as a noun also means to influence, or result of a cause.


a. The green tea had a soothing effect on her mind.

b. Swami Vivekananda’s speech had a great effect on young minds.

c.The gas leak has had a disastrous effect on the people living in the surrounding area.



Cambridge Dictionary Online

Collins Dictionary Online



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