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Lay vs. Lie

by Weston Kincade on 10/18/13

A very common source of confusion for writers is lay vs. lie and the different tense forms, so I hope these explanations and examples help.

First, there are two main differences to keep in mind:

·         Lay requires a direct object.

·         Lie does not require a direct object. It instead refers to the subject of the sentence.


Lay vs. Lie Tense Chart


Present Participle


Past Participle






to lay





to lie

Lay vs. Lie Usage Examples:

In addition to tense, determining which version of lay or lie is relevant comes down to usage.  An easy way to remember how to use lay is that it is synonymous with set, and most often lie is used when referring to oneself. Here are a few examples.


·         Lay (Set) the photo album on the shelf.

·         I need to lie down.

Present Participle:

·         She is laying (setting) the parts out on the carpet.

·         I can’t help lying around sometimes.


·         Trevor laid (set) the antique tool on the old workbench before he broke it.

·         I lay in bed before 9:00 p.m. unable to find sleep.

Past Participle:

·         Considering the instructions, we should have laid (set) out the parts ahead of time.

·         I have lain in the yard for hours watching stars as a child.


·         We are going to lay (set) out the maps to try and flatten them out.

·         I am going to lie down and get some rest.

Hope these help. If you have further questions, feel free to ask.

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