Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits: Lie versus Lay


Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed.

Lie versus Lay

Many people often mix up these words, and it is helpful to learn to use them correctly. Lie and lay are not interchangeable — they have different meanings and should be used properly.

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LIE means to rest or recline. It is intransitive, which means it does not take an object.

Examples:
I need to lie down.
I will lie on the couch.
He lies on the floor.
She wants to lie down and take a nap.
Let the dog lie where he is.

Present tense: lie, lies. He lies down.
Past tense: lay. Yesterday, he lay down.
Present participle: lying. He is lying down.
Past participle: lain. I have lain in bed too long.

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LAY means to put or set an object down. It is transitive, which means it takes an object — you lay something down.

Examples:
I lay the book down.
She lays her pencil on the table.
He wants to lay down the law.
They can lay the tile in the bathroom.
Please lay the papers on the counter.

Present tense: lay, lays. She lays the book down.
Past tense: laid. He laid the packages on the table.
Present participle: laying. She is laying the pen down.
Past participle: laid. I have laid the books on the counter.

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Please view the two charts that help explain it further.


 

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