Hello again. I’m back after a long break, and I have a complicated but important entry for you today. This one is about two verbs that have long confused even native English speakers: lie and lay.
The chief difference between these two verbs is about whether it’s about a person or a thing. If we’re talking about a person (or an animal) putting their own body on something, we use “lie”, and if we’re talking about a person setting a thing on a certain surface, we use “lay”. For example:
I want to lie down on my bed and take a nap.
The cat often tries to lie on my computer while I’m trying to work.
Please lay the package on the table.
I will lay my textbook next to my bed so I can study it easily.
As you can see from these example, the verb “lie” is intransitive, which means that it doesn’t have an object. The verb “lay”, on the other hand, is transitive, so it always has an object. Please note that we often use the word “down” after “lie”, as in my first example.
When we use these verbs in the past tense, it becomes a little confusing. This is because the past tense form of “lie” is “lay”, and the past tense form of “lay” is “laid”. For example:
I lay down on my bed and took a nap.
The cat lay on my computer while I was trying to work.
I laid the package on the table yesterday.
I laid my textbook next to my bed so I could study it easily.
It’s also important to note the -ing form of these verbs. For “lie” it is “lying”, and for “lay” it is “laying”. For example:
I was lying down on my bed when you called me.
The cat is lying on my computer now.
A: What are you doing?
B: I’m laying the package on the table.
The most important thing to remember about these verbs is that the past tense of the verb “lie” (“lay”) is the same as the present tense verb “lay”.
Also please note the past participle forms in red:
lie – lay – lain
lay – laid – laid