Many of my students in Medellin and even native speakers from around the world have asked me what the difference is between lay and lie.
I lie on my bed? I lay on my bed?
Let´s go over what the meaning of each verb is first.
What is the definition of the verb lay?
To lay means to put something down. For example: She lays the plates on the table before dinner.
So remember the verb lay is a transitive verb. This means that you always need an object when using it. It is impossible to say: I lay 0n my bed.
Me: I lay? You lay what?
You: Oh, I lay the clothes.
Me: You lay the clothes where?
You: Oh, excuse me, I lay the clothes on the bed.
Me: Yes, now I understand.
What is the definition of the verb to lie?
To lie means to rest or recline. For example: My father lies on the sofa.
So lie is an intransitive verb. It does not take an object. It is impossible to say: I lie the cups on the table.
Apart from not knowing the difference in meaning between lay and lie, much of the problem stems from not knowing the conjugation of both verbs in past, past participle, and progressive.
Let´s take a look at the verb lay
Present: lay (I lay the chunchurria on the grill.)
Past: laid (I laid the chunchurria on the grill.)
Past participle: laid (I have laid the chunchurria on the grill.)
Progressive: lying (I am lying the chunchurria on the grill.)
Now lets look at the verb lie
Present: lie (My dog, Estrellita, lies on my bed.)
Past: lay (Estrellita lay on my bed all day yesterday.)
Past participle: lain (Estrellita has lain on my bed all day, she’s such a lazy dog!)
Proressive: laying (Estrellita is laying in my bed again.)
Now test yourself: Lay vs. Lie Quiz
1. Choose the correct sentence.
A) I am dizzy and need to lay down.
B) I am dizzy and need to lie down.
2. Choose the correct sentence.
A) When I got dizzy yesterday, I lay down.
B) When I got dizzy yesterday, I laid down.
3. Choose the correct sentence.
A) My brother lies carpet for a living.
B) My brother lays carpet for a living.
4. Choose the correct sentence.
A) The book has been laying there for weeks.
B) The book has been lying there for weeks.
5. Choose the correct sentence.
A) We need to lay this baby down for a nap.
B) We need to lie this baby down for a nap.
About the writer – Andrew Macia
Hello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz. I am an advanced level English teacher here in Medellin, and I also have a website development, and marketing company which I run from home.
My idea with the Medellin Buzz is to push those who are learning English and to integrate native speakers with non-native speakers.
I love living in Medellin and I love Colombia. I want to give back to the community and this is the best way I know how. Let’s practice English and Spanish and have a great time!
About the Medellin Buzz
The Medellin Buzz is lighthearted resource for English as a Second Language learners in Medellin, Colombia to practice with. The Medellin Buzz is written in a way that is easy to understand. If you do not understand something feel free to make comments below.