Lay and Lie are often confused with each other since they are close in meaning but are used in different tenses.

Lay is a transitive verb that means to place or set something down. It requires an object.

For example:

“What is a transitive verb”

In this sentence laid was used to refer to the book that was set on the table.

  • He laid the book on the table.

Laid in this sentence is used to refer to the baby that was put inside its crib.

  • She is going to lay the baby in the crib. (She placed the baby in the crib)

Lie is an intransitive verb that means to be in a horizontal position, usually for rest or sleep. It does not require an object.

For example:

“What is an intransitive verb”

There is no use of direct subjects in these sentences they both refer to the action of going into a horizontal position.

  • That was groundbreaking news. I need to lie down.
  • The cat is lying on the couch.

In summary, lay is a transitive verb that means to place or set something down, while lie is an intransitive verb that means to be in a horizontal position.

This is where things can get confusing. The past tense of lie is lay, but not because there is any correlation between the two verbs.

When you say, “I lay down for a nap,” you’re actually using the verb lie, not lay, despite the way it sounds.

These are the past tense and past participle forms of both verbs:

  • Lay (present tense) > laid (past tense) > laid (past participle)
  • Lie (present tense) > lay (past tense) > lain (past participle)

When deciding when to use Lay or lie one way to tell is whether there is a direct subject you are referring to. Another thing to remember is that Lay will usually be followed by a noun and Lie will be followed by the word down.

Here are examples of Lay and Lie used in a sentence:

Lay

1.) I don’t want to lay my hand on yours.

2.) My brother lay a mouse trap on the kitchen counter.

3.) My chicken laid a dozen eggs today.

4.) Lay the newspaper on the floor then we can start the game.

5.) Please lay your belongings in the basket we’ve prepared for you.

6.) I lay my clean clothes on a chair to prepare for tomorrow.

7.) His dog lay still beside him, watching his every move.

8.) They lay in each other’s arms in contented silence

9.) Should I lay the bag in the drawer?

10.) How dare you lay a finger on my sister!

Lie

1.) I’d like to lie down for a while.

2.) I told her to lie down and get some rest.

3.) We lie in the sunshine for what felt like hours, but it was only 20 minutes.

4.) The doctor asked him to lie down on his stomach.

5.) A fit of dizziness came over her so she had to lie down.

6.) Three books were lain out on three separate tables

7.) He must have lain awake all night thinking about his exam results.

8.) His eyes traveled to where his father had lain.

9.) They expected me to lie down and take it like a coward

10.) I have to lie down for an hour after Physics class to rest my brain.

By Karen

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