Lie vs. Lay

You will impress your family and friends with your grammar skills if you can distinguish between lie and lay. These words confuse even the best editors, so you pretty much have to memorize a chart and then practice to build your confidence.

Lie vs. Lay Chart

Present

Past

Past Participle
(used with helping verbs such as have)

To recline

lie, lying

lay

has/have/had lain

To put or place

lay, laying

laid

has/have/had laid something

To tell a falsehood

lie, lying

lied

has/have/had lied

Example of to recline in present tense: I lie down for a nap at two o’clock every day.
Same example as above in past tense: I lay down yesterday for a nap.
Same example as above with a participle: I have lain down every day this week.

Example of to put or place something in present tense: I lay the book down.
Same example as above in past tense: I laid the book down.
Same example as above with a participle: I have laid the book down.

Example of to tell a falsehood in present tense: I am tempted to lie about my weight.
Same example as above in past tense: I lied about my weight when I renewed my driver’s license.
Same example as above with a participle: I have lied about my weight each time I have renewed my driver’s license.


If you wish to respond to another reader's question or comment, please click its corresponding "REPLY" button. If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

158 Comments on Lie vs. Lay

158 responses to “Lie vs. Lay

  1. A says:

    When was the linoleum (laid, lain)?

  2. robert cool says:

    Are Your Texts Passive Aggressive? The Answer May Lay In Your Punctuation.
    This is a news headline and I cannot get around their use of “Lay.” Please help.

  3. Penny says:

    Is this correct for past tense? “I smiled before laying my hand on her arm.” Or would I have to write “I smiled before I laid my hand on her arm”?

  4. Penny says:

    Have I got this right? If any body part is an object, then saying “I laid my hand on his chest” or “He laid his hand on my chest” would be correct for past tense. “I lay my hand on his chest” would be correct for present tense. “I lay on the bed” would be correct for past tense (because he’s going to lie down). “I have lain in bed all night” is correct for past tense.

  5. Diana Azzarone says:

    When you give the dog the instruction is it correct to say Lie down or lay down?

  6. Joyce Loughmiller says:

    Which is correct: The cat is lying down in front of the warm fire,
    or
    The cat is laying down in front of the warm fire?

  7. Crystal Scherer says:

    I found that chart immensely helpful. Wish I had found it years ago.
    Mind if I post this chart on a writing site with a link back to this page?

  8. Lois Colletti says:

    We lay down together just hugging and saying the least words when my daughter walked to my bed and told me that she had breast cancer. We did not shed a tear. Is that correct?

  9. Interested says:

    Is this use of laying correct?

    Due to weather conditions and excess water laying on grass.

  10. Jimmbo says:

    If you are telling someone to put their head down, are you telling them to lie their head down or lay their head down ?

  11. Pedro Teixeira says:

    Is the use of “lay” correct? “He slipped into his sleeping-bag. He needed to think, and his thinking was always clearer when he lay on his back.”

  12. Ashleigh says:

    Piles of raked leaves lie in every yard. Correct?

  13. Susan says:

    The double-sided tape does not lie flat, as it is larger than the space provided for it.
    The double-sided tape does not lay flat, as it is larger than the space provided for it.

    Is the first sentence the one with the correct usage?

  14. Ashley says:

    Is there any difference if “laid” is next to “out” in a sentence? For instance if I wrote, “Everything was laid out clearly in the document,” is “laid” correct here or should it be “lay” since “[e]verything” comes earlier in the sentence?

    Thanks!

  15. Skip says:

    Which is correct:
    The bag is lying flay on the bed. OR
    The bag is laying flat on the bed?

  16. Sushiducke says:

    I saw a children’a song, with lyrics like “as I lay in my bed, I close my eyes.” Not past tense in this case but used “lay”. Is it grammatically incorrect?

  17. Natalie says:

    What about the hard ones i have trouble with Come came, Goes went, have had, eat ate, woke wake,

  18. Sandi says:

    Which is correct? (I wish I understood the rule! I struggle with lie/lay and set/sit.)
    The book and papers were laying on the arm of the chair. The book and papers were lying on the arm of the chair.
    The book and papers were setting on the arm of the chair. The book and papers were sitting on the arm of the chair.

    • It is helpful to think of the word lying meaning “resting.” Therefore, write “The book and papers were lying on the arm of the chair.”
      Set means to place something somewhere. Sit means to be positioned or take a seat. “The book and papers were sitting on the arm of the chair” is correct.
      In addition to the chart contained in this post, please see Set, Sit in our Confusing Words and Homonyms section.

  19. Marny CA says:

    When knitting, are stitches to lie flat or lay flat?

    This was a new query to me — so thought I would rush here to ask you folks!

  20. M says:

    Which is correct?

    Lily the Cat is being a beautiful queen and keeps laying on the bed.

    or

    Lily the Cat is being a beautiful queen and keeps lying on the bed.

  21. Victor says:

    And while he lay there sleeping, they gathered at his feet.

    Correct?

  22. areincute says:

    Which one is correct?

    The things were laying on the floor.

    Or
    The things were lying on the floor.

  23. Leah Hernandez says:

    Which one?
    Jesse is lying in the hammock on the front porch.
    Jesse is laying in the hammock on the front porch.

  24. Cathy says:

    Action occurred in past. Which statement is correct?

    I read your email this morning, but I had to lay down before responding.

    I read your email this morning, but I had to lie down before responding.

  25. John says:

    I’m a songwriter from the Netherlands and I’ve been writing in English for over 35 years now. Still sometimes even I get confused about the right way of using words in a sentence. For example I have just written a song in which the words lie and lay are confusing me. Also because I’m not using them directly, like Lie down or Lay down but in a suggestive kind of way. Maybe you could help me out. The lines are as follows: It’s fine if you want to lay/lie your head next to mine. It’s okay if you want to lay/lie beside me this way. I’d appreciate your input.

  26. rinky says:

    please tell me are these sentences correct?
    i lay down on the bed all day.
    i lay down in the bed all day.
    Thanks

    • They are both grammatically correct if you are referring to the past. We would delete “down”: I lay on the bed all day (yesterday). Place a capital letter at the beginning of your sentences. We would make the second sentence I lay in bed all day (yesterday).

  27. Emily says:

    Is “lied” ever correct in usage of anything but to tell a falsehood? Is it ever correct to say someone lied down if it’s in the proper tense and context?

  28. John says:

    Are these correct?

    The remains of a half-eaten dinner and the daily mail lie forgotten on the table.

    Dark and shapeless, the blank landscape lie before Dianna.

    Two bodies lie prone on the ground.

  29. Pear says:

    I had just lain down for the evening.

  30. Diane Moyer says:

    I’m proofing a court transcript and cannot change the verbiage, only the spelling. The person is saying “I lied down in my sleeping bag, I lied there.” Is this the spelling I should use or “lyed”? Neither seems right but, as I said, I can’t change their usage. Please help!

  31. Robert Leach says:

    Jane, you wrote that: Jane says:

    June 11, 2009, at 9:26 am

    Correct: He was lying on the ground.

    Here,”lying” is in the past tense. Why not use “laying”?

    Just trying to understand.

  32. Juliar says:

    Which one is correct?
    1. The book was laid on the table.
    2. The book was lain on the table.

    Thank you.

  33. DP says:

    Is this correct usage?

    “My head now lays very low while I wait”.

    The context is coming from earlier on the page: “My head was in the clouds but life has brought me crashing down”. The “head” got to its current state by a mix of life happenings and the character’s realizations.

    Thank you!

  34. Richard Gassen says:

    The easiest way to distinguish between lay and lie: The former is a transitive verb that takes a direct object (noun or pronoun); the latter is intransitive. Lay the book down (transitive). Lie down for a nap (intransitive).

    • That is not always the case. When used as the past tense of lie, the word lay is not a transitive verb that takes a direct object. Example: Yesterday he lay around watching movies until noon.

  35. Rose says:

    I have a sentence in which I’m not sure which form is correct. Could you please help?

    “We walked until we saw a fire (lain?) beneath the stars.”

    I think the structure of the sentence is throwing me off.

    • Grammatically, “lying” is the choice over “lain.” But we see no reason for any form of the verb to lie between “fire” and “beneath.” We would instead write “flickering,” “burning,” or “blazing.”

  36. Bob says:

    So after reading the comments I’m guessing one would tell their dog to lie down as in “Fido lie down” or “Fido go lie down”. Is that correct?

  37. Dawn says:

    When speaking to the dog do you say

    Lay down or lie down as a command

    My partner tells the dog to ‘lay down’
    Is that correct or is it correct to tell the dog

    ‘Lie down’ as a command

  38. Paul says:

    I had always learned that animate objects “lie”, whole inanimate objects “lay”.
    “I lay (laid) the book on the table, before lying down for a nap.”

    • Your sentence is correct with the word laid, however, your theory is incorrect. Consider these examples:
      The books lie where you left them.
      The chair is lying on its side.

      Also, please see our reply of January 27, 2015, to Debbie in this blog for an explanation.

  39. Mark says:

    I was listening to a hockey announcer say about a goalkeeper “he just laid there”

    is that correct?

    Should it be “he just lay there.”

  40. Marie says:

    They lay there for some time. Does that sound correct?

  41. Joan Warren says:

    “What lie in her wake did not feel like love.”
    or lay?

  42. BabyBen says:

    Does a carcass lay or lie?

  43. Debbie says:

    So humans and animals lie, and inanimate objects lay? Are both of the following sentences correct?
    “The set of glasses laid unused in the cupboard.”
    “The man laid on the couch.”

    • The determination of usage is not as simple as humans and animals vs. inanimate objects. One must also consider the tense used, as well as whether a direct object follows lie or lay. The following are correct as indicated by the chart in the blog:

      The set of glasses lie unused in the cupboard. (“to recline or rest,” present tense, no direct object)
      The man lay down on the couch. (“to recline or rest,” past tense, no direct object)

  44. Paul says:

    Where does the opportunity lie?

  45. Va says:

    Which is correct?
    The patient was unable to lay flat on his back.
    The patient was unable to lie flat on his back.

  46. Vonda Skelton says:

    Is this correct?

    “That means you know what dangers lie in her path.”

    Thank you!

  47. mary moore says:

    Please explain grammar rules for : Now I lay me down to sleep… Thank you!

    • With a little poetic license, the sentence is grammatical, but “myself” would replace “me” in modern English. The verb lay is transitive; “lay myself down” is akin to “lie down.”

  48. Amita Johnsy says:

    The idea to start a poetry website was laid upon by my brother. Is it correct??

    • This is an unusual usage of lay/lie and selecting the correct tense is not likely to help this sentence much. Were you thinking of “stumbled upon”? Other alternatives could be:

      The idea to start a poetry website was initiated by my brother.
      My brother had the idea to start a poetry website.

  49. JJ says:

    My impulse is to say “This is where their priorities lie.” but if I’m interpreting your chart correctly, it should say “This is where their priorities lay.”, which sounds awkward to me. Which is the correct use for an abstract such as “priorities”?

    • Since the sentence is present tense and there is no object, the correct word is lie.

      “This is where their priorities lie.”

      “Their priorities lie here.”

      • Erica says:

        I don’t understand your response to the question above regarding “priorities lie/lay with…”

        Which part of the chart are you using to come to your conclusion?

        Thank you!

        • We are using the first example of present tense in the chart. When writing about things rather than people, it is helpful to think of the word lie meaning “rest or recline.” This is where their priorities lie (rest).

  50. Carolyn Barnett says:

    I lie down. I lay the book down. My cat Zoey lies down. The discussion centered on whether lie or lay is correct for animals. What is correct?

    While I am asking, “on average” and “went missing” both seem wrong. Is it just my age?

  51. Wendy B says:

    “Cats used to be in charge of the world but put humans in charge so they could lay around.”
    That seems wrong to me. Should it be “so they could lie around?”
    For some reason I seem to remember that humans lie down, but objects and animals lay down. Now idea where that came from but my mother was a Grammar Nazi, so I’m thinking she is the one who said it. According to what I read now, though, that isn’t correct.

  52. Jennifer says:

    So, which is correct?

    Being the inquisitive child that he was, he opened the bag and in it lie a spread of dog-eared sports magazines.

    Being the inquisitive child that he was, he opened the bag and in it laid a spread of dog-eared sports magazines

  53. Monique Cawood says:

    My competitive advantage lays in the breadth of experience and diversity in various roles. Is this correct?

  54. Susan says:

    Is this the correct use of lie?

    “…that deep inside lies the nourishment to get us through the struggle.”

  55. Elaine says:

    Am i using ‘lie’ correctly here?

    In this simple desire of an orphan lie the deep issues of settlement….

  56. Carol says:

    Is it: I am laying in bed or I am lying in bed?

  57. hi says:

    Great explanation! I remember “learning” this in grammar class…
    I was actually checking out some apostrophe stuff, but saw the link and decided to get some things cleared up once and for all!
    Just to make sure I did, is this sentence correct?
    “As I lay in bed sleeping, my mother had laid a glass on the table, but she later lied and said it had lain there since before I fell asleep. Now when I lie down to sleep, I lay the glass somewhere she can’t find it, and lie to her, saying she laid it down and lost it!”

  58. karin says:

    Therein lies the opportunity.
    Therein lays the opportunity.

    which is correct and why?

    • The verb lie does not take an object. In the present tense, the verb lay does take an object. There is no direct object in your sentence. It is just an inverted sentence. If you turn the sentence around, it reads “The opportunity lies therein.”
      Therein lies the opportunity.

  59. Mishelle says:

    Which is correct:

    Rusty has decided to lay next to me this evening.

    Rusty has decided to lie next to me this evening.

  60. Geri says:

    Does one say, “He has a sore back. It hurts to lie on but does not wake him up at night.”

    • The sentence is fine grammatically, but it’s a bit awkward. You might consider rewording to “He has a sore back. It hurts to lie on it, but it does not wake him up at night.” OR
      “He has a sore back. It hurts to lie down, but it does not wake him up at night.”

  61. Roberta Masecar says:

    You are to place objects, anything that will lie flat, on the paper.

    Is this use of lie, lay, correct?

  62. jeff says:

    Sorry, still confused. Which is correct?
    Know where the sandbars lie.
    Know where the sandbars lay.

    • The verb lie does not take an object. In the present tense, the verb lay does take an object. Examples:

      I will lay the book on the table.
      The book will lie on the table.
      (I, you, we, they) know where the sandbars lie.

      • Brennan says:

        I know these comments are old, but nearly every English sentence can be written in a way that is just as clear but avoids these issues.

        I will lay the book on the table.
        I will put the book on the table.
        I will set the book on the table.

        The book will lie on the table.
        The book will be on the table.
        The book will rest on the table.
        You will find the book on the table.

        (I, you, we, they) know where the sandbars lie.
        (I, you, we, they) know where the sandbars are.

        Just trying to eschew obfuscation.

        (Yeah, I know that wasn’t a complete sentence, but conversational English is very adept at leaving the subject implied.)

        • That is an interesting observation, but it is our job to help people learn how to use the confusing words correctly. Although rewording a sentence is an easy fix, it is not always acceptable, especially in an academic situation. We prefer not to avoid certain words just because they are difficult.

  63. Jinx says:

    I lay the tree on the car. The car was lying on top of me. Right?

    • Jane says:

      Yes, both your examples are correct.

      • Joan says:

        Not so fast! “I lay the tree on the car” is present tense. “The car was lying on top of me” is past tense. That is confusing. The pairs are (in my view):

        I lay the tree on the car. The car is lying on top of me.

        I laid the tree on the car. The car was lying on top of me.

        Clear as mud?

        • We interpreted Jinx’s question as asking whether his two sentences were grammatically correct, not whether his sentences were the same tense.

          We should all note that “I lay the tree on the car,” while grammatically correct, is an odd sentence.

      • Sheree says:

        Why are “things” lying? I thought it would be laying. Is it because there is an object that they are “lying” on?
        thanks.

        • When writing about things rather than people, it is helpful to think of the word lying meaning “resting.” For example, in the sentence “The cards were lying face down,” lying is the correct form of the verb lie, meaning “to recline or rest.” The verb lie does not take an object. The verb lay does take an object, as in the sentence “I was laying the cards face down.” In that sentence, the word cards is an object.

  64. Margie Searson says:

    Thank you, Jane.

    I laid my head on the pillow. Is this correct? This is confusing.

  65. Margie Searson says:

    I hear people say, “He was laying on the ground.” He is lying on the ground.” I have been lying in the bed all day.” Which or any correct?
    I don’t see much about laying or lying in the grammar books.

    • Jane says:

      Correct: He was lying on the ground. I have been lying in bed all day. I have a full explanation on this page: Lay vs. Lie.

    • Ernest says:

      If “he is lying on the ground” how can we be sure whether he is telling falsehoods from this place or merely prone? If “he is laying on the ground” is incorrect grammar, then how does correct grammar help clarify the statement and thus justify our attention to it?

      • Sometimes it is up to the writer to construct the sentence in a way that clarifies the meaning, although you may be one of the only persons in the world who would interpret the meaning of the sentence to be that the person is telling falsehoods on the ground.

        • Marlene Hinds says:

          I just read a newspaper article on an in-custody death, which stated, “Mr. [X’s] lifeless body can be seen lying on the ground…” That, in my estimation would be correct; however, my question is, if the police placed the body on the ground wouldn’t the correct term be “lay”as in, “The officer lay the lifeless body onto the ground…and the corpse can be see lying there?

        • wil says:

          “One of the only”
          is a meaningless phrase!

  66. Theresa says:

    Your information is useful but still does not answer the basic question. Is the book I laid on the table laying or lying. Is the cup I set near the sink setting or sitting? I would most appreciate having this matter clarified.

    • Jane says:

      The book is lying on the table.
      The cup is sitting near the sink.

    • Brian says:

      The book is lying on the table. Think of laying as the action of doing something to something else. After laying the book down, it is now lying there.

      Also here is another good example: I am lying down for a nap after laying my son down for his nap. He is finallly lying down and sleeping.

    • Gilberto says:

      It’s laying because lying is either to tell a falsehood or to rest or recline, but not to lay meaning to set an object down.

Leave a Reply to robert cool Cancel reply

Please ensure that your question or comment relates to the topic of the blog post. Unrelated comments may be deleted. If necessary, use the "Search" box on the right side of the page to find a post closely related to your question or comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *