Monday, October 21, 2013

Lie - Lay - Lying - Laying

Let's take a look at this simple sentence, shall we?

He laid down in the bed of leaves and fell asleep.

Is it correct? What do you think?

The answer is: NOPE!

Correct: He lay down in the bed of leaves and fell asleep.

This is a common confusion because the verbs are so gosh darn similar! "Lie" and "lay" are so similar, in fact, that their different forms overlap. However, the use and the meaning are different.


1. Can you use the verbs "put" or "set" instead? Then use "lay*."
2. Can you use the verb "recline" instead? Then use "lie*."

* CAREFUL! See the conjugation below.


"Lay" is a transitive verb. That means it needs a direct object.
"Lie" is an intransitive verb. That means it doesn't need a direct object.

But what does all this MEAN???

Let's look at "lay" first:

The meaning of "lay" is to put or place something somewhere.

LAY (put or place something somewhere)

Base form: lay
Past tense: laid
Past participle: laid
Present participle: laying

It's a transitive verb, which means that when you use the verb "lay", you need to "lay something."

Could you please lay the book on the table?
She laid the boxes next to the car.
The road workers are laying the new sidewalk today. (This one is actually more like a coined expression.)

Secondly, we have the intransitive verb "lie."

LIE (recline)

Base form: lie
Past tense: lay
Past participle: lain
Present participle: lying

This one doesn't use an object, so you don't need to add a "something." The meaning of "lie" is to recline. You can also say "lie down."

When I go to bed, my cat always lies (down) right on top of me.
He worked for eighteen hours yesterday, so the moment he got home he lay down to sleep.

EXTRA: Don't forget there's also the verb "lie" with the meaning to tell something that is not true.

LIE (tell an untruth)

Base form: lie
Past tense: lied
Past participle: lied
Present participle: lying

I hope this is helpful!


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