Using “Lay” and “Lie” Correctly


“Lay” and “Lie” are irregular verbs, but “perplexing” would be a better adjective to describe them. Once you get past the present tense, they change in some surprising ways. I have never figured out a way to remember their forms except by rote. When I got tired of looking them up, I got smart and made a little chart. That chart is currently taped to the side of my computer. This brief guide will help you use them correctly.

A. USING “LAY”

Definition: To put or place something. (Dictionary.com has over 40 individual definitions for “lay,” but almost all of them can be summed up by this.)

Use: In its most common uses, “lay” is a transitive verb. This means that this is an action done to something. Remember: You lay something down, even if that something is yourself.

Present tense samples (lay):
I lay the book on the table.
Please lay the baby in the crib.
He lays his toys on the floor.

Past tense samples (laid):
I laid the book on the table.
You laid the baby in the crib.
He laid his toys on the floor.

Present participle samples (laying):
I am laying the book on the table.
You were laying the baby in the crib.
He is laying his toys on the floor.

Past participle samples (laid):
I have laid the books on the table.
You have laid the baby in the crib.
He had laid his toys on the floor.

B. USING “LIE”

Definition: As discussed here, “lie” means to be in a horizontal, prone, or resting position (not telling a falsehood).

Use: In its most common uses, “lie” is an intransitive verb, which means that it does not use an object. Remember: Something lies on something else.

Present tense samples (lie):
I lie in the bed.
The doll lies on the shelf.
We lie on the floor.

Past tense samples (lay):
I lay in the bed.
The doll lay on the shelf.
We lay on the floor.

Present participle samples (lying):
I was lying in the bed.
The doll is lying on the shelf.
We were lying on the floor.

Past participle samples (lain):
I had lain in the bed.
The doll has lain on the shelf.
We have lain on the floor.

C. CONCLUSION

Using “lay” and “lie” correctly is just one step in the process of writing clearly and concisely.

To all who find our articles useful, we always appreciate your feedback and comments.


Free E-book to Improve Your Writing Skills

Your Writing Companion

Top writing strategies and expert instruction from each of Precise Edit’s writing guides

  • 2 complete articles from
    Precise Edit Training Manual
  • 8 days of instruction from
    300 Days of Better Writing
  • 5 top strategies from
    Bang! Writing with Impact

Discover the quality and practicality of Precise Edit’s writing guides while learning great strategies for writing powerfully!

GET THE FREE E-BOOK (PDF)
or purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Using “Lay” and “Lie” Correctly

  1. Sameer

    Good post. Growing up, I thought I knew exactly when to use one over the other, but then things got muddled in adulthood. So this was helpful.

  2. Mimi

    Great description! You LAY something down; something LIES on something else . . . easy to remember!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s