When to Use “Lie” versus “Lay”

© Geoffrey Kuchera | Dreamstime.com

A common word usage question is when to use “lie” versus “lay.” Here’s a quick tutorial with the meanings and rules for lie and lay.


One usage of the verb “lie” means “to recline”

  • I am going to lie down on the sofa for awhile.
  • Watch the lion lie down on the grass.

However… the past tense of “lie” is “lay”

  • I only lay in bed for half an hour.
  • The lion lay there until he got hungry.

And… the past participle is “lain”

  • I have lain in bed longer than I should have.
  • Had the lion lain there all day, he would have missed supper.


A common usage of the verb “lay” means “to put or set down”

  • I am planning to lay my purse on that table.

Past tense is “laid”

  • I laid my purse on that table just ten minutes ago.

Past participle is also “laid”

  • I have laid my purse on that table every day for a month.

Of course “lie” also means to fib, but that’s not the one we confuse with “lay.” And we could “lay a bet” or “lay a plan” or “lay the table for dinner,” but these are not confused with “lie.”

Bottom line:

You don’t “lay down” in bed, nor would you have “laid in bed for a nap.”

You LIE down but you LAY something else down, when speaking in the present tense, which is where most of the mistakes come from with the lie-lay situation.



Leave a Reply