By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated, November 11, 2013)
Many people are confused about the correct use of lie, lay, lain, lied, lying, and laying. Usage depends on the intended meaning of lie or lay and whether the action is done regularly, is being done now, was completed in the past, or has been done on a continual basis in the past. The following are examples of correct use.
To lie as in to recline:
- He lies on the sofa all the time.
- He is lying on the sofa now.
- He lay on the sofa last night.
- He has lain on the sofa for hours.
To lie as in to tell an untruth, to deceive:
- She lied about where she went earlier today.
- she is lying about where she went earlier.
- She lies about where she goes all the time.
- She has lied about her travels on a regular basis.
To lay as in to place something somewhere:
- He lays his hat on the table.
- He is now laying his hat on the table.
- Yesterday, he laid his hat on the table.
- He has regularly laid his hat on the table despite being asked to put it on the hat stand.
- O’Conner, P. T. (1996). Woe Is I, the Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
- Soanes, C., Oxford Dictionaries. (2013). “Lie or Lay? Laying Down the Law on Some Puzzling Verbs.”