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When To Use Lie Or Lay

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Updated 5/7/19

Figuring out whether you should use lie or lay can give you a headache. At Writer’s Relief, we know lie and lay are difficult verbs! Do you need to lie down? Lay down? Forget that! Wake up, read the examples below, and you’ll know when to use lie or lay.

Here’s a little exercise:

One of these is correct. Can you tell which one?
A) We lie the silverware on the table.
B) We lay the silverware on the table.

Do you know which is correct in this example?
A) I have lied to you before.
B) I have laid to you before.

And, what about this one?
A) She is lying on the floor.
B) She is laying on the floor.

Not sure? Let us help you solve the mystery behind the lie and lay rules! Let’s start with the definitions of lie and lay.

Definitions:
lie1: to say something untrue in order to benefit
lie2: to recline, or to be in a horizontal position
lay: to place, which is always followed by an object
**Tip: If you can replace the word in question with put, then use lay.


lie1 (to fib), which is a regular verb:
The present tense is conjugated with lie/lies/lying, depending on the subject.
The past tense is simply conjugated with lied.


lie2 (to rest oneself), which is an irregular verb. Note: if you (or some other person) is resting, then you use this form, lie2.
The present tense is conjugated the same as lie1.
The past tense is conjugated lay or have/had lain, depending on the subject.


lay (to place or put something), which is an irregular verb. Note: if you put something down, the object is what completes the meaning of this form, lay.
The present tense is conjugated with lay/lays, depending on the subject.
The past tense is conjugated with laid or have laid, depending on the subject.

Think you have it figured out?

Let’s go back to the beginning. The answers are: B, A, and A. Revisit these rules a few times, and soon enough, you will realize there is no mystery at all.

Want more articles like this one about grammar rules and confusing words like lie or lay? Our free newsletter Submit Write Nowdelivered right to your e-mail. In it you’ll find useful articles about using proper grammar and other writing-related issues, including this article on the Top 20 Misused (and Mistreated) Words. Enjoy!

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14 Responses to When To Use Lie Or Lay

  1. Once you determine whether to use lie or lay, you must consider the past tense and past participle of each verb. Today I lie, yesterday I lay, many times I have lain. I lay it down, I laid it down, I hve laid it down. Without also considering past forms, an error is still likely.

  2. Hi Nancy,

    Affect: Have an effect on; make a difference to.

    Effect: A change which is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.

  3. When I was in physical therapy, I would lose patience with my therapist or an x-ray technician, who would repeatedly instruct me to “lay down.” (Lay down WHAT?) I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and corrected and explained. The next time I saw one PT, she said, “I’m afraid to tell you what to do — I know you’re going to yell at me!”

  4. Chickens lay eggs. People lie down.

    My grandfather taught me that when I was 4 years old. I never forgot it. 😊

  5. “Lie down in darkness.”
    “Lay down your arms.”

    No confusion here. And I always tell my dog “Go lie down.”

  6. Go lie down is correct.
    Go lay down is incorrect.
    “To lay” is a transitive verb; it requires an object.
    If we were instructing the dog to deposit his chew toy somewhere, we would use the verb “to lay” — Go lay your chew toy over there.

  7. My confusion is when you tell the dog to “Go lay down.” Seems like it should be “lie” but that seems awkward because one is so used to the sound of the other.

  8. Very useful article, I usually find it difficult to use severe and swear, i just get confused while using these words, hope you can create a good post on that too. Thanks for your efforts!

  9. A lie is an announcement utilized deliberately with the end goal of duplicity. The act of conveying lies is called lying, and a man who imparts a lie might be named a liar. Falsehoods might be utilized to serve an assortment of instrumental, relational, or mental capacities for the people who utilize them. By and large, the expression “lie” conveys a pessimistic implication and relying upon the setting a man who imparts a lie might be liable to social, lawful, religious, or criminal assents.

  10. Lied is the past tense of the “untruthful lie.” That is, the time when you don’t confess all, you lie. When you didn’t confess all, you lied. “Lying” can be used both in the lie setting and in the resting or reclining setting. Usage of “lying” can be sketchy. Guarantee the setting makes it unmistakable.

  11. Lied is the previous tense of the “untruthful lie.” That is, the point at which you don’t come clean, you lie. When you didn’t come clean, you lied. “Lying” can be utilized both in the lie setting and in the resting or leaning back setting. Utilization of “lying” can be questionable. Ensure the setting makes it clear.

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