Lay vs. Lie

Hello, my splendid little stars!

As I sit in my sunny bedroom enjoying a lazy Sunday, I started pondering about the many complexities of the English language. While some of the lessons I post about are so simple that anyone past fourth-grade level should understand, there are others that require a tad bit more of attention. Today’s discussion falls in the latter category.

So go grab a nice cuppa (tea, coffee, matcha. Whatever strikes your fancy will do) and get comfortable.

Lay vs. Lie in the present tense

To fully understand the difference between lay and lie, it’s important for you to be able to identify the object of a sentence (it’s also essential to know this in order for you to understand when to use who vs. whom, but I digress).

For example, let’s say that you like to read and you’re setting up your online dating profile on To weed out potential dates who don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, you specifically state “I like to read books.”

In that sentence, “I” is the subject (e.g. the person, place, or thing the sentence is about) and “books” are the object (e.g. the person, place, or thing that’s affected by the verb/action word).

Ok. Going back to when to use lay vs. when to use lie:

“Lay” requires an object: “I lay down my heavy handbag as soon as I get home from work.”

In the sentence above, the handbag is the object.

“I lay down the shopping bags next to the table at the café.” Same as above, “shopping bags” are the object of the sentence, so the correct word to use is “lay”.

On the other hand, when the subject of a sentence places him or herself in a flat position, they lie down:

“I’m going to lie down to take a nap.”

Lay vs. Lie in the past tense 

Now, this is where it can get a bit confusing: When referring to the subject, the past tense of “lie” is “lay”:

“I was so tired after my run this morning, I had to lay down for a nap when I got home.”

It gets back to “normal” (or at least to what we’re used to when conjugating verbs) when we’re referring to an object:

“I laid down my handbag as soon as I got home from work.”

“I laid down my shopping bags next to the table at the café”

Alright, my beautiful Earthlings. That is all for today. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Much love,

The Fairy Godwriter

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