Friday, March 1, 2013

GRAMMAR: Lay vs. Lie

Usually my go-to website for grammar questions is the "Grammar Girl" ... but on this topic, she uses words like congugate and participle, and frankly, if I don't remember to turn off my speakers, the video commercials on her site blast me with Victoria's Secret ads. Pet peeve (and off topic, sorry).

Maybe I need to take middle school English again. Picture that: big old me sitting at tiny desk with little people way smarter than me. *sigh*

Anyhow. After scavenging through many websites, I found a very concise explanation from -

"Lay" is a verb meaning to put or place something somewhere.It takes a direct object. Its principal parts are "lay," "laid," "laid," and "laying."

Examples: Every day I lay the book on the table. Yesterday I laid the book on the table. I have laid the book on the table many times.I am laying the book on the table right now.

In all these examples, the verb is a form of the word "lay," and the direct object is "book."

"Lie" is, in this context, a verb meaning to recline. It does not take an object. Its principal parts are "lie," "lay," "lain," and "lying."

Examples: Every night I lie down. I lay down last night. I have lain down many times. I am lying down right now.

If you're in doubt about whether to use "lay" or "lie," try substituting a form of the verb "place." If it makes sense, use a form of "lay."


So, print out the examples above and practice using the words! I'd suggest taking the sentence you're struggling with in your manuscript, and see if you can't match it to one of the sentences above to figure out the correct part of lay or lie you should use. :)

Good luck (to us all)!!

Have a great weekend.


  1. I like grammar girl too. I'm glad that word processors are becoming more powerful over time so that they can help me with my grammar and spelling.

  2. I love grammar, Margo. There's tricky little misuses of 'shall' and 'will', 'less and 'fewer' etc. So easy to make mistakes, but now with common useage, many people don't see that there's any need to get picky. It's good that more writers are paying attention.

  3. These verbs can get so easily confused because they are similar in meaning, just one takes an object and the other doesn't, and they share "lay" in common as a part.

    I also get the correct parts confused between lie (to recline) and lie (to tell an untruth).