Monday, June 14, 2010

BRUSH UP YOUR LANGUAGE: When do you use "lie" and "lay"?

According to Word FAQs at, to "lay" is to place something; to "lie" is to recline (though there are other meanings).

"Lay" is followed by an object, the thing being placed.

For example: He lays the book down to eat.

To "lie" is to recline, as in: She lies quietly on the chaise lounge.

The best way to explain it is that "lie" in the sense of 'to recline' or 'be situated' is intransitive and cannot take a direct object.

But "lay" meaning 'to place something' or 'put down' or 'arrange' is always transitive and requires a direct object.

Because "lie" is intransitive, it has only an active voice, while "lay" can be active or passive because it is transitive.

Part of the source of the confusion is the past tense of "lie", which is lay: She lay on the chaise all day.

The past participle of "lie" is lain, as in: She has lain there since yesterday, as a matter of fact.

The past tense of lay is laid, as is the past participle.

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