The lay vs. lie question commonly generates the majority of fireworks, so it appears an correct one to address complying with the Fourth of July.

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Substituting lay (to location or arrange) for lie (to recline or be situated) is undoubtedly among the many prevalent usage errors in English. Why? Since, for one thing, the past tense of lie is lay. For one more, lie have the right to also mean to fib, and using the word effectively might lead to ambiguity in certain instances, as here: Eric is lying around the home.

Is he lounging around, or informing a fib about the house? Context, of course, would provide the essential clarity, however probably to avoid potential confusion, our brains default to the word that, although incorrect, leaves no doubt about the interpretation. Who knows? Neurolinguistics is hardly my location of expertise …

Whatever the reasons for the confusion, let’s try to clear it up when and for all.

Tense Matters

Remembering which word to usage is easiest with the existing tense. Lay is a transitive verb, definition it’s adhered to by a straight object (i.e., whatever before is being placed or arranged, presented below in bold): Will you lay the blanket on the bed?

Lie is intransitive, interpretation it doesn’t require a direct object for the sentence to make sense: Maria lies down for 20 minutes every night after work.

An straightforward way to remember which word to use in the existing tense is this:

LAY: to PLACE (share the letter A)

LIE: to RECLINE (share the letter I)

Moving beyond the present tense makes points a little more difficult. Not only is the past tense of lie the very same word as the existing tense lay, but both the past tense and past participle of lay are laid, and also the current participle of lie is the exact same (i.e., lying) whether you’re talking around reclining or fibbing. What?!! Tense matters indeed.

If that’s also a lot to keep right (and it’s virtually difficult for a lot of folks), the following chart could help:

Present out TensePast TensePast ParticiplePresent out Participle



A Place for Everything

If the transitive/intransitive, straight object/no object distinctions make your eyes glaze over, there’s an easier means — and it works for all creates of the verb. Not sure whether to use lie or lay or some variation of either? Substitute the word place (or placed or placing, as proper to the context). If the sentence renders sense via some develop of place, use the equivalent form of lay. Otherwise, usage the appropriate create of lie. Let’s try it out (correct answers in green):

Michael lay> awake many nights worrying around his future. You wouldn’t say “Michael inserted awake,” so the previous tense of lay (i.e., laid) is incorrect.

The treacertain had actually lain> ununcovered for even more than a century. “The treacertain had put undiscovered” doesn’t make feeling, so the past participle of lie is correct.

I need the third book in that stack lying> on the table. The stack isn’t placing on the table, so the current participle of lie is correct.

Julia <laid/lay> her briefsituation on her desk. Julia could definitely area her briefsituation on her desk, so the past tense of lay is correct.

The ground troops <lay/laid> in waiting for practically 20 hrs before the opponent showed up. You wouldn’t say they put in waiting, so the previous tense of lie is correct.

See more: What Does Succour Mean In The Bible Word Study Series, Succour Definition And Meaning


Let us understand in the comments below if you find these tips beneficial, and whether you understand of any various other tricks for separating lie and also lay.