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



Past Participle
(used with helping verbs such as have)

To recline

lie, lying


has/have/had lain

To put or place

lay, laying


has/have/had laid something

To tell a falsehood

lie, lying


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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16 Comments on Lie vs. Lay

16 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:
    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”?

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