vocabularyVOCABULARY


Confused Words | Lie vs. Lay


The confusion

question mark

The verbs lie and lay can be confusing. Here is a quick explanation:

  • lie has two meanings:
    1. To be in or assume a horizontal or resting position.
    2. To tell an intentionally false statement.
  • Lay means to put something or someone in a particular position.

Lie vs. Lay

lay

The verb lay is a transitive verb. Lay is also a past tense of another verb, lie. To lay something somewhere means to put or set something down, especially in a horizontal position. It is an action that you do to something. The different forms of lay are:

  • Simple present = lay(s)
  • Simple past = laid
  • Past participle = laid
  • Present participle = laying

Examples

  • She laid the baby on the sofa.
  • He laid the book on the table.

lie

The verb lie is intransitive. It is polysemous: it has two different meanings.

1. First meaning of lie:

To lie somewhere means to be in or assume a horizontal or resting position. The different forms of lie in this sense are as follows:

  • Simple present = lie(s)
  • Simple past = lay
  • Past participle = lain
  • Present participle = lying

Examples:

  • He likes to lie on her bed and relax.
  • They were lying on the floor, listening to the birds singing.

2. Second meaning of lie:

To lie has another meaning: to tell an intentionally false statement. The different forms of lie in this sense are as follows:

  • Simple present = lie(s)
  • Simple past = lied
  • Past participle = lied
  • Present participle = lying

Examples:

  • Don't lie to me.
  • She was lying all the time.
  • He lied about his relationship to her.

To sum up

To sum up here is a chart that would help you distinguish between lie and lay:

Meaning Simple Present Present Participle Simple Past Past Participle
To be in or assume a horizontal or resting position lie(s) lying lay lain
To tell an intentionally false statement lie(s) lying lied lied
To put or set something down, especially in a horizontal position lay(s) laying laid laid

A list of confused words