When to Use Lie or Lay: Tips for Student

Have you ever agonized over lay vs. lie when writing, not sure which one you should use in that particular instance? Well, this is something that even native English speakers and experienced writers struggle with. After all, these words do look and sound similar to one another.

Despite these surface similarities, though, these words actually have rather separate meanings. Here are the definitions to help you understand this a little better:

  • Lay: to place something down gently or carefully
  • Lie: to assume a horizontal or resting position on a surface

As you can see, according to these definitions, lay down vs. lie down mean two separate things. However, this isn’t the end of the rules regarding how to use these two words. To truly be able to use them in the correct context each and every time, you are going to have to read the rules below…

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How Do You Use Lay and Lie Verbs?

Now, before learning how to use lay and lie, you should be aware of another fact. There are several forms of these words as well. Therefore, you have to contend with lay, lie, laid, laying, lying, lain as well. While all of this may sound rather confusing, the necessary rules will be mentioned below.

Present Tense

Lay and lie are the present tense forms of these words. Therefore, sentences containing them would appear as such:

I am very particular about where I lay my clothes when in a dressing room.

She likes to lie down on the sofa for naps.

Present Participle

When it comes to the present participle of these words, it is important to keep in mind that it becomes laying vs lying. Lay turns into laying and lie becomes lying. Here are some sentences to expand on this:

He is laying the table carefully so that he doesn’t move any of the plates.

She likes to spend her days off lying on her bed, reading.

Past Tense

With past tense, things can get a little confusing. This is because lay is the past form of the word lie. To add to this, the past tense of lay is laid. So, the sentences would look like this:


Yesterday, the child lay down on the muddy ground.

The man laid the book on the table with a great deal of force.

Once you get used to this rule, you will find it easier to understand the lay vs. lie and laid relationship.

Past Participle

Then, there is the matter of lie, lay, laid vs. lain. This is to do with the past participle form of the words lie and lay. In short, the past participle of lay is laid while the past participle of lie is lain. Here is an example of this:

She has laid all of the towels on the floor in a heap.

The dog has lain in that puddle for most of the day.

How to Remember Using Lay vs. Lie?

There is a lot of information to process here and you may just require a quick and easy way to try and keep these two words straight. In this case, there is a mnemonic that you can rely on. It uses the definition of each of these terms to help you figure out how to use them. It goes like this:

p(LA)ce: to "lay" down

rec(LI)ne: to "lie" down

Considering all of the rules associated with lie and lay, it is going to take you a while before you can use without any issue. In the meantime, you should probably opt for a "grade my paper" service, just to be on the safe side. You will then be able to have an expert writer look over your paper to make certain that you haven’t used these words incorrectly.

By following the above advice, and getting some additional assistance, you will have no trouble with any form of writing at all. Instead, you will be able to easily create work that is beyond reproach and able to meet even the highest of standards.

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