I'm confused about lay and lie. Please look at these examples:

"Don't lie in the sun for too long."
"The dog was lying dead on the floor."
"She lay back against the pillows."
"I told her a lie about what I was doing."

What are differences between these sentences?

  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/105/… May 19, 2014 at 10:44
  • lie- Simple Present, lying- present continuous, lay- simple past
    – Sandeep D
    May 19, 2014 at 10:48
  • 2
    To add to the mess, there's also telling lies. "Don't lie about your income", "he lied in his tax form", "he was lying about his relationship with her the whole time". Don't ask me about the past participle :-/
    – SF.
    May 19, 2014 at 13:23

3 Answers 3


You lie yourself and you lay something - the very basic thing.

For instance,

You lie down on the floor OVER
You lay a pot on the floor.

This is about the present tense.

I could not find anything better than simply putting GrammarGirl's excellent examples here, in-situ.

The past tense of lie is lay, so...

Last week, Steve lay down on the floor.
The cat lay in the mud after it rained yesterday.

The past tense of lay is laid, so

Last week, I laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary forcefully laid her ring on the table.

The past participle of lie is lain (this is wonderful), so

Steve has lain on the floor for days.
The cat has lain in the mud for hours.

The past participle of lay is laid, so

I have laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary has forcefully laid her ring on the table.

  • 2
    How could I understand "lay" is the past form of "lie"?
    – user3731
    May 19, 2014 at 10:59
  • I think it is hard to recognize them from each other.
    – user3731
    May 19, 2014 at 11:00
  • Are they grammatically different?
    – user3731
    May 19, 2014 at 11:00
  • 2
    @IceGirl Lay vs Lie
    – Sandeep D
    May 19, 2014 at 11:01
  • 1
    The "something" you lay can be oneself, you lay yourself down to sleep. Jul 27, 2016 at 17:35

Something lies somewhere. You lay something somewhere. The sentence structures are totally different. But I admit these two verbs with their similar stem forms have their difficulty. There is only one means to remember the forms. Write down the stem forms occasionally.

  • lie/lay/lain

  • lay/laid/laid. Originally a regular verb, layed became laid.


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