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Lie vs. Lay

Who or what is lying down—the subject or the object?

baby lying down
 

Lie vs. Lay

LIE

Lie expresses an action that a person or animal does by oneself, "recline".  Lie is followed by a prepositional phrase expressing the location where the action occurs (e.g. down, on the couch, in bed). It does not accept an object (noun phrase) because it is an intransitive verb. 

lieA baby lies down in a crib.

(present)

The baby is lying in her crib.

(present progressive)

eggsThe eggs lay on the ground.

(past)

The baby has lain in her crib for an hour

(present perfect)

The mother will lie down and rest too.

(modal + base form)

lie downLie down.

(command – base form)

 

LAY

Lay expresses an action that a person does to someone or something, "put".  Lay is a transitive verb that is followed by an object (noun phrase) and optionally a prepositional phrase expressing the location where the person or thing is placed (e.g. down, in, up).              

mother lays her baby downA mother lays her baby down for a nap often.

(present)

The mother is laying her baby down for a nap.

(present progressive)

chicken and eggThe chicken laid two eggs.

(past)

The mother has just laid her baby down for a nap.   

(present perfect)

The mother will lay her baby down for a nap when she is tired.

 (modal + base form)

lay it downLay it down.

 (command – base form)

 

 

Related page: Intransitive verbs   

Word Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; P –Preposition

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase

Function Categories:  Subject, Predicate, Complement

 

 

 

 

 

Lie

Additional Meanings

Church lies north of town.
 

Lie — other meanings

EXPRESSIONS EXAMPLES

lie (V) – rest, sit

Lie is usually followed by a prepositional phrase for location.

*BE LOCATED   (V)

The new church lies north of town. (present tense)   The old church lay to the south.  (past tense)

*BE IN A DIRECTION  (V)

The mountains lie to the east.  (present tense)

*EXIST, BE  (V)

Our choice lay between sailing east or sailing west.   (past tense)

*REMAIN  (V)

Several ships lay in anchor in the harbor.  (past tense)

BE LAZY (V)

Watch him carefully. Don't let him lie down on the job.

HIDE (V)

The pirates lay low until they could escape without anyone seeing them.   (past tense)

TAKE WITHOUT PROTEST (V)

He won't take that lying down. He will surely fight back.

 

 

 

 

 

Lie (a homonym)

Additional Meanings

Liar
 

Like (fib) — other meanings

EXPRESSIONS EXAMPLES

LIE  (V) – tell something untruthful

He lies to his friends. 

He is lying now.  (present participle)

He lied to you then and has lied to you many times. (past participle)

He's a liar. (N)

TELL A WHITE LIE – tell a lie with good intentions or kindness

She told a white lie to save her friend from feeling hurt.  She said, "Nice dress."

LIE THROUGH ONE'S TEETH – tell something untruthful shamelessly while smiling

He was lying through his teeth when he said he was a doctor. He hadn't even finished high school. (lie openly, lie while smiling)

TELL A BALD (BARE) FACED LIE– tell something untruthful shamelessly

 

The politician denied having said it.  That was a bald-faced lie. (a shameless lie)

 

homonym (N) – a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, regardless of whether it is spelled the same or differently. (e.g. fair–fare, their–there)

 

 

 

 

Lay

Additional Expressions

laid up
 

 

Lay — other meanings

PHRASAL VERB EXPRESSIONS EXAMPLES

lay  (V) – put in place

Lay is usually followed by an object noun phrase and optionally a prepositional phrase for location.

BE ILL AT HOME (V)

He was laid up for two months before he could get back to work.  (passive voice [by his doctor] / participial adj.)

NOT FOCUS ON / SAVE FOR LATER (V)

If they lay aside their differences, they can talk peace.  (not focus on, consider at a later time)

SAVE FOR LATER (V)

She lays away part of her pay check each month.

A PURCHASING PLAN (N)

We put the new washing machine on lay-away until we have enough money.

STOP FIGHTING (V)

The generals laid down their weapons.  (past tense)

STORE (V)

Farmers lay in grain for the winter.

DISMISS FROM EMPLOYMENT (V)

Fred's company laid off two hundred workers.  He was laid off. [passive] (lay off – intransitive idiom)

ARRANGE (V)

We laid out the table with our finest dishware. (informal speech- past tense)

SPEND (V)

He laid out $250 for a new suit.  (informal speech- past tense)

BURY (V)

They laid him to rest on Sunday.  (past tense)

PUT AWAY (V)

Lay to rest any thoughts of danger.  We have fixed the problem. (stop worrying)

MAKE IT EASIER FOR

The legislation lays the foundation for more law suits. (made it easier for)

PLACE RESPONSIBILITY

They laid the blame on us.  (past tense)

NATURE OR CONDITION (N)

The lay of the land is hilly.

PUT RULES IN PLACE

He walked into the room and laid down the law.   (informal speech- past tense)

SEE

I haven't laid eyes on him for over a month.  (informal speech- past tense)

FAIL BADLY

The movie was terrible.  The producers laid an egg.  (informal speech- past tense)

FLATTER, COMPLIMENT TOO MUCH

He was laying it on thick when he told me that he couldn't live without me. (informal speech- past tense)

STATE CLEARLY

The officer laid it on the line and told me not to drive over 65 m.p.h. (informal speech- past tense)

STOP (V)

STOP (N)

We laid over for one hour in Los Angeles before continuing to San Francisco.  (lay / laid over – intransitive)

We had a one hour lay over in Los Angeles. (N)

GET, ACQUIRE)

I'll buy an autographed baseball if I can lay my hands on one. (informal speech- past tense)

SPEAK OPENLY AND HONESTLY

He needs to lay his cards on the table and tell us why he is really here.

DECLARE RIGHTS TO PROPERTY
 

The pioneers laid claim to the lands they found. (past tense)

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*Laid-off workers lay the blame on management.

"We're not going to take this laying down!"  

*I laid down for a rest.

*Lay down!

*She has laid in her bed all day.

SOLUTION

Laid-off workers lay the blame on management.

"We're not going to take this lying down!"

I lay down for a rest.   (lie – past tense)

I laid the baby down for a rest.    (lay – past tense)

You lie down.     (lie – past tense) 

Lay down your gun! (missing object) (lie – past tense)

She has lain in her bed all day.   (pres. perfect)

She has laid her clothes out on the bed.   (pres. perfect) 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Good Dog

Town
 

 

Complete the sentence with a form of lie or lay.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Holding on to Our House

Our house
 

 

Complete the sentence with a form of lie or lay.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.
 So I hired a lawyer.  

18.

19.
(past tense)  

20.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Fitness Class

The Plank Position
 

 

Read for Errors

Everyday before class, we workout in the gym. First, we lay our mats on the floor. Then we lay on the ground and try to stretch out from head to toe. After that, we do sit-ups, in which we lay down and use our abdominal muscles to rise to a sit position. Most days, I just want to lay there and day dream. However, if the coach catches me laying down on the job, I will have to do extra sit-ups! Next, we lay flat on the floor and lift ourselves to the plank position. We have to stay like that for four minutes.

The guy on one side of me lays down within thirty seconds while the guy on the other side of me continues planking on one foot and one hand for four full minutes! After a painfully-long four minutes, the coach tells us to lay our mats facing front and begin lifting weights. I am lifting them and thinking, "Tomorrow is Saturday and I can lay in bed as long as I want." As we leave, the coach reminds us that our choice lies between failure and success, and success is making the right decisions after having made the wrong decisions.

 

 

 

 

Edit for errors.

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

21.
Everyday before class, we workout in the gym. First, we lay our mats on the floor. 


22.
Then we lay on the ground and try to stretch out from head to toe.


23.
After that, we do sit-ups, in which we lay down and use our abdominal muscles to rise to a sit position.


24.
Most days, I just want to lay there and day dream. 


25.
However, if the coach catches me laying down on the job, I will have to do extra sit-ups!


26.
Next, we lay flat on the floor and lift ourselves to the plank position.   We have to stay like that for four minutes.


27.
The guy on one side of me lays down within thirty seconds while the guy on the other side of me continues planking on one foot and one hand for four full minutes!


28.
After a painfully-long four minutes, the coach tells us to lay our mats facing front and begin weights.


29.
I am lifting them and thinking, "Tomorrow is Saturday and I can lay in bed as long as I want.


30.
As we leave, the coach reminds us that our choice lies between failure and success.