Lay, Lie, Laying, Lying: Choose the Right Word

Do you want “lie,” “lay,” “laying,” or “lying”? This article contains memory aids to help you learn to choose the  right word.

Lay ~ Place something down flat.

Lie ~ A person or thing reclines.


I lay the book down.

A hen lays eggs.

A crane lays a steel beam on the ground.

I lie down to sleep.

The dog lies on his bed.

I like to lie in the sun.

Clairton lies between Pittsburgh and Washington.

Memory Aid

“Lay” means to place something. Lay and place both have the long “a” sound. When you’re deciding which word to use, think of  “lay-place.”

“Lie” has the long “i” sound, just as “recline” has the long “i” sound. When something is already in place, it lies there. It is “reclining.”

Present Participle of “Lay”

When something or someone is resting in place, it is “lying.” That can be confusing. However, remember that “lie” and “lying” both have the “i” sound of “recline,” meaning “resting.” It isn’t an action. It has already happened.

The flowers are lying on the table.

We found the keys lying on the dash.

Our dog was lying on the porch swing.

Past Tense of “Lie”

The past tense of “lie” is lay. Now that’s confusing. However, when we’re referring to the past, it’s an action in the past, just as laying something down is an action. So when you lie down in the past, the action is “lay,” meaning you’re placing yourself there. “Lay” is for the action. “Lie” is for the result at rest.

Memory Aid

“Lie” and “lying” have the “i” sound, as in reclining.”Lay” means the action of putting something somewhere. When we put something into a reclining position in the past, we refer to the action. Remember that “lie” changes to “lay” when the action is in the past.

The following exercise will help you learn to use “lie” and “lay.”




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