Lay or Lie

This is a repeat of a post from three years ago, so apologies to those who have seen it, but maybe it won’t hurt to have a refresher.

You wouldn’t believe how often, as a copy-editor, I see “lay” and “lie” misused.

Do you have trouble knowing the correct form of lay or lie to use in your writing?

Why not copy and paste this chart? Print it out either with your printer or by hand, onto a piece of paper that you can keep handy by your desk for a quick reference.

A quick version of how “lie” and “lay” are used with the pronoun “I.”

To Lie (down)

I lie (present)

I lay (preterite)

I have lain (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

To Lay (to set an object down)

I lay (present)

I laid (preterite)

I have laid (present perfect)

I am laying (present continuous)

To Lie (tell an untruth)

I lie (present)

I lied (preterite)

I have lied (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

Good work! Now have a cookie.


6 thoughts on “Lay or Lie

    • It really is a challenge to get these verbs right. But I won’t correct you on your blog posts unless you specifically ask me to. It’s not what I like to do in front of an audience. As long as we know what you’re trying to say, it will do for a blog.


  1. As a non-native English speaker the difference between lie and lay when it comes to lying down or placing things eluded me for many years, but I think I have finally gotten the hang of it, these past couple of years as I wrote my book. I assume “preterite” means past tense? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, preterite is the immediate (simple) past. If you think of the present tense of lay as putting something down, then lie has to be lying down. The hen lays the egg. The egg lies in the box. In the preterite, the hen laid the egg. The egg lay in the box.
      I admit it’s not easy, but I hope the chart will help.

      Liked by 1 person

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