“lie” and “lay”

Differences between the verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’

by | Aug 10, 2019 | Vocabulary

A usage point. Differences between the verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ and how to avoid some common mistakes.

Differences between the verbs 'lie' and 'lay'

by IELTS Juice

Birds ‘lay’ eggs and you ‘lie’ on the beach. Good people do not ‘lie’, and this goes on! But after listening to this short IELTS Juice podcast, you’ll feel more confident about the use of these tricky English verbs.


Today’s topic is: Lay or Lie?

This could be really confusing BUT not after listening to today’s lesson!
Listen to these examples:

She was lying on her back. (NOT laying)
I lay on the bed and tried to relax.
she laid the baby on the bed.

First, we’ll talk about “lay”.
This verb means “to put sb/sth into a flat position”. As you can see from the meaning, this is a transitive verb which needs one or more objects.
And the past tense of it is: “laid”
For example:

I always lay a cloth on the dining table. (Present simple)
He laid his hand on her shoulder. (Past simple)

So, in both examples there is an object after the verb and it’s generally followed by an adverb/preposition.

Now, let’s talk about “lie”.
This verb means “to be in a flat position”. So, this shows that this is always an intransitive verb which means that we don’t need any object after it and the funny part is that the past tense of it is: “lay”
For example:

The newspapers lie neatly on his desk.
She lies in the sun in order to get tanned.

There is no object in neither of the examples. However, as you’ve noticed we can still have an adverb or a preposition after the verb.

Just keep in mind that:
The common prepositions used after the verb “lie” are:
“in, on,, back and down” depending on the meaning.


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"lie" and "lay"

About the Author

About the Author

CEO and Co-founder of Juice Academy

Mehdi Safavi is a Cambridge certified English teacher (CELTA Grade A), IDP-trained IELTS expert, Sussex Downs College TESOL with 17+ years of teaching & teacher training experience. More about him →


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