This is the second part of the difference between series.

Another common misuse I hear is that of “lie” and “lay”. Most of the misuse I see is the use of “lay” when the speaker means “lie”.

Lie means to recline, and lay means to put or to place.

An easy way to tell the difference is that lay is a transitive verb (requires a subject and object, such as “I lifted the bag” or “She punished him”) and so requires an object.

Consider the following sentence:

I lay the book on the table.

In the sentence “I” is the subject and “the book” is the object.

Lie on the other had is an intransitive verb (doesn’t take an object). Here’s an example.

I lie down on my bed.

So if you are describing an action where you do something with another object, use “lay”. If you are referring to doing something yourself, use “lie”.

And just to offer a little more confusion, the simple past form of “lay” is “laid. The simple past form of “lie” is “lay”. :) So,

I laid the book on the table. (past)

I lay on the bed. (past)

Hopefully, that clears things up for someone.

Let me know if you have any grammar questions, and I’ll be sure to post the question and answer here.

About Kim Siever

I am a copywriter and copyeditor. I blog on writing tips mostly, but I sometimes throw in my thoughts about running a small business. Follow me on Twitter at @hotpepper.

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