The Verb to lay and to lie

lay

  • to put something down, to place something somewhere.

The principle parts are lay (present), laid (past), (have, has or had) laid (past participle).

The present participle form is laying. The verb lay always takes an object.

He lays tile for the Regal Store.

I lay the book on my desk. (present)

He laid tile for the Petersons.

Yesterday, I laid the book on the teacher’s desk. (past)

He has laid tile for our neighbours.

I have laid a book on Johnny’s desk every day this school year. (past participle)

He is laying tile today.

(Tile is the object of all the above sentences.)

Morrigan nodded, but decided small talk wasn’t going to help make the task that lay ahead easier.

lie

  • means to recline, to rest, or to remain in a reclining position.

The principle parts are lie (present), lay (past), (have, has had) lain (past participle).

The present participle form of lying.

He lies down every afternoon.

I lie on my bed when I have a headache. (present)

He lay on the couch all afternoon.

Yesterday, I lay on my bed to contemplate life. (past)

He has lain on the couch at times.

I have lain on my bed every morning all winter because it’s too cold to get up. (past participle)

He is lying on the couch

Argon removed his sword and lay (NOT laid) on the bed.

Argon gazed upon the enchanting woman in his bed, with her head lying against his pillow as if this was where she awoke every morning.

Three hours later, they lay on their bellies looking down upon a peaceful village in a glen.

The verb lie is also the verb to use when speaking of inanimate objects that are in a reclining or in a lying-down position.

  • The report lies on my desk.
  • The report lay on my desk for a week.
  • The report is lying on my desk.

Don’t forget about “lain,” my friend! All these verbs have two things in common: They begin with the letter “L” and confuse the bejeezus out of many people.

Remember: Lay and laid both mean to set something down, while lie, lay and lain all mean the subject is setting itself down.

4 thoughts on “The Verb to lay and to lie

    • Diane Tibert says:

      It is simple…for me. I write it, I compare my lay/lie with this cheat sheet and then let the editor fix any mistakes. 🙂

      Thankfully we are not alone with confusing lay and lie.

  1. lynnlappy says:

    I think I use the correct word…most of the time. This is great information to have at our disposal. I’m sure I’ll have to use it when I get back into the checking of my Jimmy the Leprechaun story.

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