Lay vs Lie
The English verbs lay and lie are commonly confused by even native English speakers. I’m not lying when I say that you can now lay your fears of not knowing the difference to rest.
Lay is a transitive verb, which means that it must be used with a direct object. The past tense of lay is laid.
- Please lay the books on the table.
I laid the books on the table.
- Have you ever seen a chicken lay an egg?
The chicken just laid two eggs.
- “Now I lay me down to sleep…”
He laid himself down to sleep.
Lie is an intransitive verb, which means it cannot have a direct object. The past tense of lie is lay.
- Lie down next to me.
I lay down next to her.
- I just want to lie in bed all day.
Yesterday, he lay in bed all day.
- Don’t lie on the floor!
I lay on the floor last week and you didn’t say anything.
Lie (past participle lied) means to say something untrue.
- Don’t lie to me.
He lied about where he got the money.
The Bottom Line
There are two problems here. One is that lie and lay mean more or less the same thing; it’s just that lie is intransitive and lay is transitive. In addition, the past tense of lie is identical to the present tense lay.
Just remember that in the present, you lie down/ on/ in, but you lay something. Once you’ve got that straight in your head, you just need to work on the past tenses and you’ll be all set – no lie!