Lie vs. Lay



You will impress your family and friends with your grammar skills if you can distinguish between lie and lay. These words confuse even the best editors, so you pretty much have to memorize a chart and then practice to build your confidence.

Lie vs. Lay Chart

Present

Past

Past Participle
(used with helping verbs such as have)

To recline

lie, lying

lay

has/have/had lain

To put or place

lay, laying

laid

has/have/had laid something

To tell a falsehood

lie, lying

lied

has/have/had lied

Example of to recline in present tense: I lie down for a nap at two o’clock every day.
Same example as above in past tense: I lay down yesterday for a nap.
Same example as above with a participle: I have lain down every day this week.

Example of to put or place something in present tense: I lay the book down.
Same example as above in past tense: I laid the book down.
Same example as above with a participle: I have laid the book down.

Example of to tell a falsehood in present tense: I am tempted to lie about my weight.
Same example as above in past tense: I lied about my weight when I renewed my driver’s license.
Same example as above with a participle: I have lied about my weight each time I have renewed my driver’s license.

Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, at 10:44 am

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27 Comments on Lie vs. Lay

27 responses to “Lie vs. Lay

  1. Silvia says:

    The culprit for the confusion between lie and lay is our Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan with his song Lay, Lady, Lay!

  2. Helaie Rampley says:

    The chart was a great idea; may I use it when tutoring a student?
    What about an example of parallelism?

  3. Lisa R. says:

    My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Bolte, taught us this poem (a VERY long time ago: estimate 1960-1961):

    Here I sit and
    there you lie.
    We are comfy
    you and I.
    But I am wondering
    where to lay
    this big book
    or set this tray.

  4. Emilie says:

    I have lain down on the sofa all week.

    I lay the cold washer over my hot forehead.

    Am I grammatically correct?

  5. Hamd says:

    How do you do?
    Please, I have a question and need your help:
    Choose
    The company has more computers than it (use-used to-used to be-use to).

  6. Jeanne Heaton says:

    Question. Is it, “He lays down in the graveyard” or “He lies down in the graveyard”? I am stumped with the plural in present tense. The more I read the more stumped I become. Thanks.

  7. cheryl silfee says:

    What is the past progressive form of “lie”?

    We were asked to write the past progressive form of “lie” in this sentence:

    Alana _____________________ on the floor playing cards.

    Our instructor told us the correct answer was “was lying”. Is this correct?

  8. Jcs says:

    Can you say “…some day…..when the wolf lays down with the bear…”
    Or is it “lies down”?

  9. Deb S says:

    In the following sentence, I’m confused why it wouldn’t be “lay down” since “Kaysha asked” is in past tense.

    “Kaysha asked if she could lie down in the nurse’s office.”

  10. Gilberto Nino says:

    “I know you want to lay down here and never get up again.”
    “The fact… I’m laying here in your bedroom.”
    I got these above two from movie subtitles. So, it’s not lie or lying?

    Can you say “I lay back in calm,” or does it have to be “I lie back in calm”?
    There is no direct object to use lay right? Lie has me feeling like lying down.

    • Do not trust movie dialogue or subtitles to always use correct grammar. You are correct that there are no direct objects in any of your examples; therefore, lie and lying are grammatically correct in your first two examples. In your last sentence lay could be correct if you are using the past tense.

      • Gilberto Nino says:

        Wow, thank you for such a wonderful page. The Blue Book Of Grammar and Punctuation is amazing. Thank you for supporting it. I will keep if for a lifetime until I know it by heart.

  11. Gilberto Nino says:

    I can see that the comma rules on your website have extra rules than your actual print book. An example would be rule 13 for commas. You have two extra letters on your website rules.

    • You may notice some differences between the contents of the GrammarBook.com website and the hard-copy book. We are able to update the website whenever we see an opportunity for improvement. However, specifically in regard to Rules 13a and 13b of Commas, the website and 11th edition of the book are the same. Perhaps you have an earlier edition. We are looking forward to a 12th edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation that will come out in 2021.

  12. Gilberto Nino says:

    Would you care to explain how “lay low” is correct? Thank you.
    I much appreciate the work you do. I hope it brings a lot of happiness to your life.

    • In regard to the idiom carrying the meaning of “hide out,” either lie low or lay low can be correct depending on the tense:
      We will lie low today.
      We lay low yesterday.

      The phrase lay low is also correct in terms of overcoming an opponent.
      He lay low his opponent with a combination of head and body blows.

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