Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lie vs lay

The English verbs lie and lay are tricky and are often confused even by native speakers. I hope this blog post will clear up this confusion for you, and perhaps you can bookmark this page so you can return to it and brush up on the rules if you forget them.

The first thing to remember is that lie is an intransitive verb, which means it is not followed by an object. We usually lie down, lie in bed, or lie motionless, but we don't lie anything--remember, no object.

The second thing to remember is that lie is an irregular verb, which means its past tense and past participle don't end in "ed".

Lie, lay, lain
Lying (present participle)

Here are some examples.
1. She's lying in bed.
2. She lay down 30 minutes ago. She's probably asleep by now.
3. She has lain down for the night.
4. She likes lying on the sand and listening to the surf.
5. She lies on the couch for 30 minutes everyday at noon.

On the other hand, lay is a transitive verb, so it's followed by an object. We usually lay something down or on a surface. Lay is also an irregular verb, but it's probably easier to remember because its past and past participle forms are the same.

Lay, laid, laid
Laying (present participle)

Here are some examples:
1. He laid the books on his desk.
2. She lays out his clothes on the bed every morning.
3. They've laid his body to rest.
4. She likes to lay her head on his shoulder.
5. They go to the cemetery and lay flowers on his grave

There is another verb to lie, which you probably know, which is completely different from the verbs above, and it means not to be honest or not to tell the truth. This verb is a regular verb.

Lie, lied, lied
Lying (present participle)

Here are some examples:
1. They lied to their parents. They said they hadn't gone to the party when they actually had.
2. The students are lying again. They said they had done their homework when they actually hadn't.
3. They've lied to us several times.

Alright, folks. Thanks for reading and listening. This is Joe. Have you signed up to receive our lessons by email? Just enter your email address on the side. Also, like the small guide site on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter @joeyu2nd for more quick English lessons. Catch you later.

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