Lay is a transitive verb (one that takes an object), meaning "to put" or "to set" or "to place" something down.
Lay is used if the subject is acting on an object.
Example: I lay down the notebook. I (the subject) set down (action performed) the notebook (the object).
The principal parts of lay are lay (present tense), laid (past tense), laid (past participle), and laying (present participle).
Lie is an intransitive verb (one that doesn’t take an object), meaning "to rest" or "to recline" or "to stay or to assume rest in a horizontal position."
Lie is used if the subject is performing the action on the subject.
Example: I lie down to sleep. I (the subject) set myself down (action performed on the subject by the subject).
The principal parts of lie are lie(present tense), lay (past tense), lain (past participle), and lying (present participle).
COMMON ERROR BETWEEN LAY AND LIE
Lay and lie mean different things and aren’t interchangeable. One of the most common errors with lay and lie is attributed to the past tense of lie, which is lay. When lay is used as the past tense of lie, it follows the same pattern of an intransitive verb—the subject is performing the action on the subject.
Example: My brother lay down for a nap. My brother (the subject) set himself down (action performed on the subject by the subject).
> After you (the subject) lay (put, set, or place) a notebook (the object) on the table, it is lying (reclining, resting) there.
> Present tense > John (the subject) lies (sets himself) down on the couch to watch movies and spends the evening lying (resting, reclining) there.
> Past tense > John (the subject) lay (sets himself—action performed on the subject by the subject) down on the couch to watch movies and spent the evening lying there.
> When you go to the beach for vacation, you spend your time lying (resting, reclining) on the beach.
> If you see something lying on the ground, it is resting there; if you see something laying on the ground, it must be doing something else, such as laying eggs.
[…] Lay vs. Lie Cheat Sheet by XterraWeb. When to use lay or lie. The difference between lay vs. lie, examples and an easy chart that breaks it all down. […]
This is great! I love learning grammar tips for common mistakes. Shortly after graduating high school I realized that I didn’t know the difference between a lot of common words (to, too, their, they’re, effect, affect) and it really frustrated me. I made it a priority to learn the difference – now I get annoyed if someone say’s something like ‘I like you’re blog.’ I really shouldn’t, though, because I just learned the difference between lie and lay and still can’t grasp affect and effect.
Thank you, C. Poly. I like hearing people enjoy my articles and find the tips helpful. I hope you’ll explore some of the other writing and grammar articles.
I like to think I’m pretty good at grammar but I’m aware that I don’t know everything. Thanks for the information!
Thank you for visiting, Emma! I hope you stop by again. 🙂
That’s very helpful article.So much stuff in grammar is being cleared to me.
Thank you for visiting, Sara, and sharing that the articles on my blog have helped you. I enjoy hearing that. 🙂
I have a list of these, as well as homophones and compound words. If it needs a hyphen I probably will get it wrong. It’s very frustrating. Thank you so much for the tips!!
English grammar has been abandoned in today’s society………..prepositions hanging at the end of a sentence and it is now accepted. For example on OFFICIAL forms: ‘What country were you born in?’ Then, well educated people use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’. The Cabinet minister on the News stated: ‘The armed forces are there to protect you and I’. These are university educated people!
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