To Lie or to Lay: That is the Question

To Lie or to Lay: That is the Question                       


The verbs lie and lay are among the most frequently confused words in the language. The following chart can help you use the correct form.                                                                           

Present Past Part Participle Present Participle
lie (to rest) lay (rested) lain (have, has, or had rested) lying (resting)
lay (to place–   requires an object) laid (placed) laid (have, has, or had placed) laying (placing)


She usually lies down (rests) before dinner.

He told his dog to lie down. (Commands are given in the present tense.)

Yesterday she lay down (rested) for two hours.

The papers have lain (rested) on his desk for days.

They were lying (resting) there in a big pile.

Please lay (place) this report on the top of the stack. (Notice that lay must have an object.)

He laid (placed) tiles for the kitchen backsplash.

He has laid (placed) tiles expertly for years.

She is laying (placing) her report on his desk right now.

Try your skill in using lie or lay in the following sentences. Write the correct form in the space provided.

  1. I am sure that I (laid/lay) the book on the desk yesterday.                                    _______________
  2. Jason angrily told his dog to (lay/lie) down.                                                               _______________
  3. This month’s bills have been (lying/laying) in the drawer for weeks.                    _______________
  4. The worker was (laying/lying) concrete blocks for the foundation.                       _______________
  5. Let the first draft of your report (lay/lie) there for a while before you revise it.  _______________
  6. Yesterday I (lay/laid) in my room before the exam.                                                 _______________
  7. Will you be able to (lie/lay) down before the presentation?                                   _______________
  8. How long have these papers been (laying/lying) here?                                           _______________
  9. Will the mason (lay/lie) bricks over the concrete patio?                                          _______________
  10. Mothers complain about clothes that have been left (laying/lying) around.       _______________
  11. I’m sure I (laid/layed/lied) my keys on this counter.                                                _______________
  12. The lost contract has (laid/lain) on her desk for weeks.                                         _______________
  13. Please tell your very friendly dog to (lay/lie) down.                                                 _______________
  14. When you were (lying/laying) the groceries down, did you see my keys?           _______________
  15. Returned books (lie/lay) in a pile at the library until the staff can return them to the stacks.                                                                                                                              ______________

Lie-Lay Writing Exercise

Lie-lay Key


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