Laying down a few rules about 'lie' vs. 'lay'

Laying down a few rules about 'lie' vs. 'lay'

One of the many sloppy usages that drive me slowly crazy is the confusion some people have between the words “lie” and “lay.” It may have started in a problem with accents or speed, but it’s an easy problem to beat.

Here are some reminders of the rules:

You are lying in bed or on the couch, but someone comes in — if you’re lucky — and lays a snack on the table beside you.

The dog in the picture is lying on the floor, but I laid that picture into the software in the proper place. The dog is not laying on the floor — it’s not a chicken.

Lie, lying and its other forms are for talking or writing about what’s directly being done by a person or thing. (Yes, you lay something on the table and let it lie.)

Laying — bonus point to me, I got the Y in there! — and other forms of lay are for talking or writing about what happens to something.

You lie like a dog or a rug,

but you lay like a chicken.


Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.


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  • The most confusing thing (at least to a 5th grader) is when to use lain.

    Also, one doesn't lay on Twitter.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well put as always, thanks. I understand that most people have trouble with lain -- something had lain somewhere until it was picked up. Personally, my only trouble with it is leaving the G off the end.

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