Grammar rules are sometimes difficult to remember. I try little tips to remember how to correctly use a word, and in the case of lay vs. lie, I sing U2’s Love and Peace.
Lay down/Lay down/Lay your sweet lovely on the ground/Lay your love on the track…
The song triggers the correct usage of lay, and the rest comes naturally to me. I admit, even though it is listed correctly below, I have never used the word ‘lain’. I imagine I would get some strange looks if I said, “I have lain down every afternoon this week.” If you are speaking and use laid, I doubt anyone would correct you, but make sure you use the correct word while writing. No matter how awkward it seems 😉
Note: The usage of these lay vs. lie depends on the tense in which you are speaking.
Common terms used in this post:
Verb: an action (what something is doing)
Object: the thing (object) that is doing the action or affected by the action (verb)
Tense: when something is happening
a. present – it is happening at this moment
b. past – it happened before this moment
Participle: a word that acts as an adjective and verb (a form of have in this instance)
Rule 1: To recline (think of a person)
Present: lie, lying
Participle: has/have/had lain
I lie down every day at 5 o’clock for a power nap.
She was lying on the ground when I found her.
Rule 2: To put or place something (think of verb+object)
Present: lay, laying
Participle: has/have/had laid
The birds lay eggs.
The child laid the book on the table.
Rule 3: To say something that is not true (notice the spelling differences)
Present: lie, lying
Participle: has/have/have lied
Sometimes it’s hard not to tell a lie.
I lied to her.
If you’d like to quiz yourself, try the lay vs. lie quiz. And feel free to share your tips in the comments below!
Sources: The Bluebook of Grammar, Webster’s, my brain
2 thoughts on “Lay vs. Lie: Which One Should You Use?”
I freely admit that I hate the whole lay vs lie when it comes to writing. I even go so far as to avoid the terms as much as possible. I would rather write about someone sprawling across a bed than someone lying down on a bed because it seems less awkward.
I completely understand, and that’s a great tip too! 🙂