Lay vs. Lie

Lay vs. Lie

Deciding whether to use lay or lie is a tricky task for most people. But while the lay vs. lie rule isn’t necessarily well-known, it also isn’t overly complicated.

We only use the verb “lay” when the verb has an object, something to act upon. “Lay” is a transitive verb, which means it must have a direct object. Something must be laid down: a person, an object, or an idea.

“Lie,” on the other hand, doesn’t need a direct object. So you can lay the cards on the table, but you lie in bed.

Past tense does get slightly more complicated. The same general rule applies: Lay requires a direct object, and lie does not. But the past tense of “lay” is “laid,” and the past tense of “lie” is “lay.”  

To learn more about lay vs. lie, and other grammar, rules review WriteLab’s Guide.


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