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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