lay OR lie?
The verbs lay and lie confuse people because:
- their meanings can be similar
- one of the verbs (lie) has two completely different meanings
- they vary between regular and irregular according to sense
- they vary between transitive and intransitive according to sense
- the present tense of lay is the past tense of the irregular lie
The following table summarizes these similarities and differences:
|basic meaning||to put something down in a horizontal position||to recline; to be in or to take a horizontal/resting position||to say something untrue|
lay, laid, laid
lie, lay, lain
lie, lied, lied
|transitive? direct object?||transitive
(must have direct object)
(no direct object)
(no direct object)
|3rd person s||lays||lies||lies|
lay, laid, laid, laying
The main meaning of the verb lay is "to put (something) down in a horizontal position".
The important thing to remember with lay is that it is transitive, so it MUST have a direct object. You cannot just lay. You have to lay something. Look at these examples. You see they all have direct objects.
|Our chickens||lay||their eggs||on the ground.|
|The nurses||laid||the wounded man||on the bed.|
Here is a table of conjugation:
|he, she, it||lays||laid||has laid|
Here are some example sentences:
- The policeman told him to lay his gun on the ground.
- The police usually lay a sheet over dead bodies.
- This chicken lays three eggs every day.
- He opened the books and laid them on the desk.
- I have laid the carpet. You can walk on it now.
- The phone rang just as she was laying the new clothes on the bed.
lie (irregular, intransitive)
lie, lay, lain, lying
The irregular, intransitive lie means "to be in, or to take, a horizontal/resting position". This is what we do on a bed, for example. We lie on our bed when we sleep.
The important thing to remember with lie is that it is intransitive, so there is no direct object. Look at this examples. You see there is no direct object.
|My dog||lies||on this mat.|
|Mary||is lying||on the sofa.|
You also need to remember that the past tense of this lie is "lay", which is the same as the present tense of to lay. Look at this table of conjugation:
|he, she, it||lies||lay||has lain|
Look at these example sentences:
- I feel sick. I want to lie on the bed.
- Usually I lie on the sofa and watch TV.
- My dog always lies on this mat.
- He loves this mat. Yesterday, he lay here all day.
- She has lain in bed since she got ill.
- After the aircrash, wreckage was lying all over the place.
- I always
layon a bench to do this exercise. (should be lie)
- I lie on the sofa when I'm tired.
- Mary lays the baby in its crib when it cries.
lie (regular, intransitive)
lie, lied, lied, lying
The first one above is easy. In the sense "to tell a lie, say something that is not true", lie is a regular verb and has no direct object. The past tense is always -ed. Look at these examples:
- Some people lie about their age.
- John lies about everything.
- "I'm forty-nine," he lied.
- We have all lied a few times in our lives.
- That's not true! You're lying!
|he, she, it||lies||lied||has lied|