“Lay” vs “Lie” – Part 1

Hi everyone! I’ll present a series of confusing verbs in the “Learning English”. I have ever explained the difference between “Make” and “Do” in these posts “Make” vs “Do” – Part 1 and “Make” vs “Do” – Part 2. Today I’m going to explain about the difference between the verbs  “Lie” and “Lay“.

Confusing verbs in English

I spent much time to write this post. After an intense search, I hope to explain the most common grammatical mistakes involving the confusion of the verbs “Lay” and “Lie“. They have similar words but they have different meanings.

To lay = to place something/ someone down (on something).

The verb “Lay” is a transitive verb. When a verb requires a direct object, it is a transitive verb. The verb “Lay” always takes a direct object (something or someone) in the sentence. For example:

I lay my hands on the chair.

  • I – is the subject;
  • lay – is the verb “Lay” in the simple present;
  • my hands – is the object (something);
  • on the chair – “on” preposition (on something)

Now see this example again and ask yourself: I lay… (what?) … my hands. It means that I place my hands (something – direct object) down.

To lie = to rest or recline.

The verb “Lie” is an intransitive verb. When a verb doesn’t require a direct object, it is an intransitive verb. The verb “Lie” doesn’t take a direct object (something or someone) in the sentence. You can’t use the verb “Lie” with a direct object. For example:

The cat lies on the sofa.

  • The cat – is the subject;
  • lies – is the verb “Lie” in the simple present, 3rd person singular;
  • on the sofa. –  “on” preposition

The verb “Lie” can also mean to tell a lie.

To lie = to tell an untruth. See this example below:

Sara lied to her mother.

  • Sara – is the subject;
  • lied – is the verb “Lie” in the past tense;

As you can see, the verb “Lie = to tell an untruth” is also an intransitive verb. It doesn’t take a direct object in the sentence.

Let’s move into the worst part of this topic. The reason “Lay“and “Lie” are confusing is their present tense, past tense, past participle and present participle forms. Click here to read the 2nd part of “Lay“vs “Lie“.

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