“Lie” (we’re not talking about prevaricating here) means to recline. “Lay” means to place something.
Hint: Forms of to lay (to put or place) take an object. Forms of to lie (recline) do not.
The confusing part comes because of past and present tense. “Lay” not only means to place, but it is also the past tense of “Lie".
Present tense: Lie
Past tense: Lay
Present Participle: Lying
Past Participle: Lain
Present tense: Lay
Past tense: Laid
Present Participle: Laying
Past Participle: Laying
Here’s a fun little quiz to test your lay/lie understanding: Select one answer from the choices provided after each sentence.
1. The dog has been ____________ on the back porch all afternoon. lying lieing laying
2. Professor Espinoza ________ her papers carefully on the podium before beginning her talk. lay lied laid
3. The old tugboat has ________ on its side since last winter's storm. lain laid lien
4. He yelled at his dog, "_______ down!" Lay Lie
5. Yolanda and Chris have been _________ carpet all day. laying lying
Answers below. How did you do?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.
Answers: 1)lying, 2)laid, 3)lain, 4)lie, 5) laying (another slightly risqué hint: to Lay or Place means something gets laid!)