Lay vs. Lie: Which One Should You Use?

GrammarTips

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

Past: lay

Participle: has/have/had lain

Examples:

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

Past: laid

Participle: has/have/had laid

Examples:

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

Past: lied

Participle: has/have/have lied

Examples:

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?

  1. 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.

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