View Full Version : Lay or lie?

07-04-2006, 06:01 AM
Recovered from Google’s cache.


06-24-2006, 07:01 PM


..lays or lies?

people lie down and things lay down? the dogs lies on the sidewalk and the water bowl lays next to him?
I will lie down and nap after I lay down the newspaper for my project?

rule please?

07:02 PM

Forbidden Snowflake

I thought it is:

I lay the newspaper down.

But the newspaper lies next to the dog.

Not? I never knew either. I hate these words. With passion.

If I lay you down, wouldn't I lay you down and not lie you down, even though you're not a thing but a person?

07:27 PM


I think that "lie" is active verb, "lay" is passive verb usage.

You can lay yourself down, or you can lie down.

But you'll need someone else to conjugate them for you; I don't always remember which word goes with which verb.

07:28 PM

Forbidden Snowflake

So you are layed down and something is layed down but you lie down or something lies down?

07:30 PM


That lie/lay thing is further complicated by the fact that lay forms the past tense of lie as well as being the present tense of lay.

Let me take a stab at this. The verb lie (lay) (lain) does not take a direct object. The verb lay (laid) (laid) does take a direct object. In other words, you lie down, but you lay something else down.

I want to lie down and lay my head on a pillow. Yesterday I lay down and laid my head on a pillow. Many times in the past I have lain down and laid my head on a pillow. (Head being the object in this case.)

Boy, that's starting to sound like a good idea. This stuff is giving me a headache.

07:36 PM

Forbidden Snowflake

So, if I get you right, I was right when I first said, you lay the newspaper down, but the newspaper lies next to the dog?

07:41 PM



08:42 PM


I lie down. I lay down (past tense).

I lay the paper down. I laid the paper down (past tense).

08:58 PM


I was taught that animate objects lie and inanimate objects lay. However, rules from handbooks are: In present tense lie, lay; past tense - lie = lay, lay = laid; present participle lie = lying, lay = laying; past participle lie = lain, lay = laid. (Source Harbrace College Handbook)

"Lie is an intransitive verb and means to recline."
"Lay is a transitive verb meaning to put or place something. It always takes an object." A quick check for which one to use is to replace lie or lay in your sentence with the correct form of the verb place. If place works, the word should be lay. (Source Woolley Scott Bracher College Handbook)

Hope this helps. Puma

10:17 PM


I was taught that animate objects lie and inanimate objects lay.
That was too broad a generalization.

Inanimate objects can lie. The newspaper lies next to the dog. A sheet of paper with curled edges won't lie flat.

Animate objects can lay something down. The dealer lays five cards on the table.

All the verbs in rekirts's examples are correct.

10:32 PM


Bob Dylan has a lot to answer for. People were just starting to get it straight in their heads when he wrote:

'Lay, lady, lay
lay across my big brass bed'

Poetic licence, indeed.

10:39 PM


Reph - yes animate objects can lay something down but the object doing the laying (your cards) are inanimate. On the newspaper - is it reclining or was it placed there? Puma

11:27 PM


Reph - yes animate objects can lay something down but the object doing the laying (your cards) are inanimate.Well, the cards don't do the laying; the dealer does. The dealer lays cards on the table. The cards lie (they rest) on the table until picked up.

On the newspaper - is it reclining or was it placed there?It could have been placed (laid) there, or the wind could have blown it there, or it could have fallen off a table and landed there, or maybe it was dropped. To lie means to rest on a surface. It doesn't matter whether you're a sleeping person or the six of diamonds, and it doesn't matter whether you got onto the surface under your own steam.

11:28 PM


Dang, my head is spinning. Thank you all for the clarification,(?) I'm sure I will refer back many times.

06-25-2006, 12:03 AM


Dang, my head is spinning.Mine too. I think I need to place myself in a horizontal position until the headache goes away.

12:09 AM


Me too- neither I nor anything I write about will ever again lie down, lay near, be lain, laying, or laid. (yikes!)

03:07 AM


[Heading:] It's simple, really
To lay is to deposit. You can't just lay, period; you have to lay something. Now I lay me down to sleep. A hen lays eggs.

To lie is to be still, on a surface. You can't lie a thing; you can only lie, period. I lie in bed all night. The hen's eggs lie in a nest.

Anyone want a mnemonic?

Lay, lay, put away.
Lie, lie, face the sky.

05:47 AM


ok, Thanks Reph..that's much easier to grasp-simple does it for me.

07-08-2006, 02:49 PM
easier solution, try finding a different word when you're doubting. sometimes it sounds better. sometimes it sounds like....well, like you forgot which one to use.

07-12-2006, 03:53 AM
In three books, American published, I've recently read 'the lay of the land'.
Now I am confused.

Help, someone and Reph, 'The lie of the land' is not correct?

07-12-2006, 04:04 AM
According to the dictionary:

lay of the land
The nature, arrangement, or disposition of something.

... Meaning "way in which something is laid" (lay of the land) first recorded 1819.

It's derived from the verb "lay" (not "lie").

07-12-2006, 06:01 AM
In three books, American published, I've recently read 'the lay of the land'.
Now I am confused.

Help, someone and Reph, 'The lie of the land' is not correct?

"The lie of the land" is correct, but so is "The lay of the land," though this is partly because of usage. It's "The way the land lays" that's incorrect. And "lay of the land" is much more common.

As verbs, lie and lay are exceedingly tricky,
Like a spider web - subtle and shiny and sticky;
You can say that you lay on the grass yesterday,
But you must be a hen if today's when you lay.
A person can lay a brick. A hen can lay an egg.
But sleeping dogs (and people) lie, unless they lay down yesterday.

"Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay: (and that's no lie) Practical Advice for the Grammatically Challenged" by Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999.

07-12-2006, 10:26 AM
I saved this from a previous post and always use it for general guidance:

Lie - Reclining
Present - Lying
Past - Lay
Past Participle - Lain

Lay - Putting down
Present - Laying
Past - Laid
Past Participle - Laid

Lie - Falsehood
Present - Lying
Past - Lied
Past Participle - Lied

Soccer Mom
07-14-2006, 10:53 PM
I have a question about dead bodies. Formerly animate objects now inanimate. Lay or lie?

07-14-2006, 11:07 PM
Dead bodies work the same as anything else. (Forget the animate-inanimate thing; I remember learning that too, and it's just wrong.)

If they're the subject, they lie, e.g., the corpse lies (or is lying or was lying, or simply lay, past tense of lie) on the slab.

If they're being acted upon, the actor lays them on a surface: the morgue assistant lays (or was laying or simply laid, past tense of lay) the body on the slab.


Soccer Mom
07-14-2006, 11:09 PM
Thanks. That helps. These are just lying around. Present tense. No actors.

07-16-2006, 06:38 PM
In case it helps I will add my two pence here as well. Basically the same as Dollywagon. This is taken from ´Practical English Usage´by Michael Swan, published by Oxford. It´s a great reference for this kind of question.

Lay is a regular verb except for its spelling. Its forms are:

infinitive: to lay

-ing/gerund: laying

past: laid

Past participle: laid

Lay means ´put down carefully´ or ´put down flat´. It has an object.

I laid the papers on the table.
Lay the tent down on the grass and I´ll see how to put it up.

Lie as an irregular verb

(to) lie, lying, lay, lain

Lie (irregular) means ´be down´, ´be/become horizontal´. It has no object.

Don´t lie (NOT Don´t lay in bed ...) in bed all day. Get up and do some work.
I lay down and closed my eyes. (NOT I laid down ...)

Lie (regular)

Means to not tell the truth.

You lied when you said you loved me.

Dialect forms

In many British and American dialects, different forms of lay and irregular lie are used. Lay is often used in cases where standard English has lie.

I´m going to lay down for a few moments. (Standard English ... lie down ...)

Well, I hope that was of some help to somebody.