Lay, lie, laid

to lie means to restIs it to lay, to lie, or what? I want to get this right but these words can be a complicated morass of misery. It boils down to a simple concept: is it RECLINING  or was it PLACED THERE?

“Lay” is a verb meaning to put or place something somewhere. It has a direct object. Its principal parts are “lay,” “laid,” “laid,” and “laying.”

What the words refer to is the action: If you set it (object) there, it is laying there. Lay it there. Lay it on the pillow.

If it is resting or reclining, it is lying there. Lie down. Lying down. Lie down, Sally. (Clapton had it wrong? Say it isn’t so!)

The internet is your friend, and can teach you many things besides how to make cute kitty memes. Quote from the wonderful website Get it Write: The verbs to lie and to lay have very different meanings. Simply put, to lie means “to rest,” “to assume or be situated in a horizontal position,” and to lay means “to put or place.” (Of course, a second verb to lie, means “to deceive,” “to pass off false information as if it were the truth,” but here we are focusing on the meaning of to lie that gives writers the most grief.)

As another great resource, in his July 7th, 2015 post on this subject for Writers’ Digest,  Brian A. Klems gave us a useful chart:

Lay vs. Lie Chart

Infinitive    Definition         Present    Past    Past Participle    Present Participle

to lay      to put or place     lay(s)           laid     laid                     laying
something down

to lie     to rest or recline    lie(s)            lay      lain                     lying

“end of quoted text” 
Brian A. Klems is an awesome author and blogger. Check out his personal blog at The Life of Dad.


This is where things get tense: present, past and future.

A ring lay on the pillow. 

Lay, Lie, Laid

But I needed to rest:


So what this all boils down to is:

final comment lay laid

But just to confuse things:

A living body lies down and rests as is needed.

A dead body is cleaned up and laid out by other people,  if said corpse was important to them. However, after having been laid out, said corpse is lying in state to allow mourners to pay their respects.


Filed under Humor, Literature, Publishing, Uncategorized, writer, writing

5 responses to “Lay, lie, laid

  1. Ahhhh — it’s another keeper. What a treasure trove of help you are, madam. 🙂


  2. Thanks so much. I’m bookmarking this page as it never fails I get confused when I’m writing and have to look it up ;).


  3. You are a star!
    I go to great lengths to avoid using these words, and now I don’t need to – thank you so much 😀