Lay vs. Lie

Comparação visual e definições das palavras "lay" e "lie".

Introduction to the Confusion of "Lay" and "Lie"

It's no secret that grammar can be tricky, and one of the most confusing concepts for English language learners is the difference between "lay" and "lie." These two words are often used interchangeably, but they mean something very different. This blog will help teachers and students understand the difference between these two words and how to use them correctly in writing.

American English ESL Lesson Plan

How are "Lay" and "Lie" Different?

The main difference between these two words is that "lay" is a transitive verb, meaning it requires an object to complete its meaning, while "lie" is an intransitive verb, meaning it does not need an object to complete its meaning. "Lay" is a verb that means to put something down. For example, a person can lay a book on a table or lay their keys on the counter. It's important to note that the verb's object (the book or the keys) must be specified for the sentence to make sense. "Lie," on the other hand, is a verb that means to recline or to rest in a horizontal position. For example, someone can lie on the couch or in bed. The verb's object is not specified because the sentence doesn't need to make sense.

What's the difference between Lay and Lie?



A transitive verb that requires an object

An intransitive verb that doesn't require an object

Means to put something down

Means reclining or resting in a horizontal position

Example: They lay the food down.

Example: It lies on the rug.

How to Use "Lay" in a Sentence

Here are some examples of how to use "lay" in a sentence:

  • "We lay the books on the table."
  • "I lay my keys on the counter."
  • "She lays her head on the pillow."
  • "He laid the baby in the crib."

Note: "Laid" is the past tense of "lay."

How to Use "Lie" in a Sentence

Here are some examples of how to use "lie" in a sentence:

  • "I lie down on the couch."
  • "She lies in bed."
  • "You lie on the floor."
  • "They lied in the sun yesterday."

Note: "Lied" is the past tense of "lie."

In each sentence, the verb's object (the couch, the bed, the floor, and the sun) is not specified because it is not needed for the sentence to make sense.

Quiz: "Lay" vs. "Lie"

Here is a quiz to test what was covered in this article.

Answers: 1. B. lie 2. A. lays 3. A. lays
1. I ___ down on the couch.

A. lay B. lie

2. She ___ her head on the pillow.

A. lays B. lies

3. He ___ the baby in the crib.

A. lays B. lies

Tips for Learning the Difference between "Lay" and "Lie"

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while learning:

  • Read, read, read. Reading is one of the best ways to internalize the difference between "lay" and "lie."
  • Write out sentences using these two words and practice using them correctly.
  • Listen to how native speakers use "lay" and "lie" and pay attention to the context in which they use them.
  • Take a grammar course or read a grammar book to look at a comprehensive overview while going at a comfortable pace.


Understanding the difference between "lay" and "lie" can seem daunting, but with the right resources and practice, anyone can master it. By following the tips outlined in this blog and using the advice listed above, every student and teacher can confidently use these two words in writing or teaching and sound like a native speaker in no time.

Date: February 9th, 2023

Amber - author of the article   Amber

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