Lie or Lay?

Do I use “to lie” or “to lay?

I understand that students often get confused and don’t whether to use “lie” or “lay”, but don’t worry, so do many native speakers.

To Lie

The verb “to lie” can have two meanings.

  1. To lie – to rest or to recline.

This is an insunbathe beachtransitive verb and describes an action done by the subject. It will never have a direct object. It describes an action that cannot be done to anything else. Think of it as meaning “to recline” or “to rest.” It is conjugated in this manner:

  • I lie on the beach every day.
  • I lay on the beach yesterday.
  • I have lain* on the beach every day for years.

2.. To Lie – to speak untruthfully with intent to mislead or deceive.

  • He always lies to his parents about where he has been.I'm not going to lie to you
  • Yesterday, he lied to the teacher about being sick.
  • He has lied about everything he has done.

*Note The past participle “lain” is rarely used.

be recline lie lay lain
tell an untruth lie lied lied


Another word commonly confused is the verb “To Lay”


To Lay

3. To Lay means to put or set something down.

It is a transitive verb and therefore requires an object.  so if the subject is acting on an object.

  • I lay the book down.
  • I laid the book on the table yesterday, but it isn’t here now.
  • I have laid your clothes on the bed for you.
To put down lay laid laid


Be careful not to confuse the past form of “lie” with the infinitive of “lay”.