Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Phrasal verbs: lay

Type: Article

Tim Bowen lays on a feast of phrasal verbs.

During an economic crisis, companies may be forced to lay off workers (make them temporarily redundant) as a result of falling demand. Lay off can also be used as an imperative, when you ask someone to stop doing something that is annoying you, as in ‘Lay off! Can’t you see I’m trying to work?’ You can also lay off doing or using something for a short period of time, meaning that you stop doing or using it, as in ‘I had to lay off the medication for a while to see if that was causing my headaches’.

If you lay into someone, you attack them either verbally or physically, as in ‘The boss really laid into him when he found out what had happened’ or ‘They knocked me to the floor and then started to lay into my friend’.

If you have the misfortune of being laid up, you have to stay in bed because you are ill or injured, as in ‘He’s been laid up with flu for the past two weeks’.

If something is laid out, it is explained carefully and clearly, as in ‘The application procedure is laid out in the accompanying leaflet.’ Lay down is used with a similar meaning but with the additional sense of obligation, as in ‘The procedure for dealing with such cases is laid down in the relevant regulation’. Lay out can also be used in the sense of knock out, as in ‘Johnson was laid out by a single punch to the chin’.

Laying something on means to provide something, particularly food, entertainment or a service, as in ‘Extra buses were laid on for late-night revellers on New Year’s Eve’.

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