Distinguish between the verbs 'lay' and 'lie'

English has such a large vocabulary that we are sure to confuse some words!

In verbs specially, there are some that cause common mistakes. Lie and lay are two such words.

The probable reason why we get confused between these two words could be their past tense usage.

The past tense of lay is laid whereas the past tense of lie is lay.

Let’s understand the meaning of the words ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ first.

Lay means “to place something down.”

'Lay’ usually has a Direct Object. For example: “Lay the mat on the counter.” Lay what? Lay mat….. So the Direct Object is ‘mat’.

Lie, on the other hand means “to recline” or “be placed.”

‘Lie’ does NOT have a Direct Object. For example, “The cat is lying down." Notice that there is no Direct Object.

Let’s take a look at some correct and incorrect uses of lie and lay.

Notice that the action is being done to something else i.e. the direct object (it).

Also, the sentence is in past tense. Naturally, the verb too has to be in the past tense. The past tense of ‘lie’ (lay) would not fit here.

So ‘lay’ in its past tense (laid) to mean ‘to put something down’ is used.

On the other hand, here, the action is not being done to something else i.e. there’s no direct object.

Here also, the sentence is in past tense. Naturally, the verb too has to be in the past tense. The past tense of ‘lay’ (laid) would not fit here.

So ‘lie’ in its past tense (lay) to mean to rest or recline, is used.

Let’s Revise!

The verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ are commonly confused.

You lie down, but you lay something down. So, lie does not require a direct object whereas lay requires a direct object.

That's it folks!