Words Students Confuse - lie and lay

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,093 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
Lie and lay are commonly confused words in English. Even native speakers sometimes make the mistake of saying, "I'm going to lay down for a minute because I'm tired,", when the correct use is "I'm going to lie down because I'm tired." Bob Dylan sings, "Early one morning the sun was shining / I was laying in bed" (Tangled Up in Blue), when the correct English is "I was lying in bed."

Lie is an intransitive verb, that is, it does not take an object. It means to stretch out in a prone position.
Lay is a transitive verb, that is, it takes an object. It means to set something down or put something down.

Look at the chart below:



Present Past Past Participle
Lie Lay Lain
Lay Laid Laid


The past tense of lie is lay! Be very careful about the time of the sentence in order to know if you need to use the past tense or the present tense.

Put either lie or lay in the following sentences:

1. He is tired. He should ______________ down.
2. I can't find where I _______________ my pen!
3. Could you ____________ the plates on the table?
4. They have _________________ in bed all morning!
5. The best ______________ plans of mice and men often go astray.

1. He is tired. He should lie down.
2. I can't find where I laid my pen!
3. Could you lay the plates on the table?
4. They have lain in bed all morning!
5. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. (Robert Burns)

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