Go lie down, lay that on the table, let sleeping dogs lie.
I’m not going to lie, the rules for using lay and lie are very complicated. It’s easy to get them wrong, so let’s lay down the law and get it right!
Merriam Webster explains it in the simplest way:
Lay’s most common meaning is “to place (something or someone) down in a flat position.” Lie’s corresponding meaning is “to be in a flat position on a surface.” Lay is transitive; it requires that the verb have an object; there has to be a thing or person being placed: Lay it down. Lie, on the other hand, is intransitive. It’s for something or someone moving on their own or something that’s already in position: You can lie down there. You can lie there all day.
Here are their examples of lay and lie in all tenses:
Using lay – lay, laid, have laid, laying
I was told to lay the book down. I laid it down as I have laid other books down. I am laying more books down now.
Using lie – lie, lay, have lain, lying
I was told to lie down. I lay down. I have lain here since. I’m still lying here.
Need more clarity? Check out Merriam Webster’s full explanation here.
We all get things wrong one time or another. I’m glad to have these rules explained to me in simple terms. What grammar rules trip you up?
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