Commonly Confused Words: Lay and Lie

When I was a second grader, I lied to my teacher and told her I was going to go and get a drink. Since my house was right across the street from the school, I walked straight past the drinking fountain and back to my mom. Today, we’re not talking about that kind of lie, but we will be going over the difference between lie and lay when they’re being used as verbs in the present tense.

The Nitty Gritty

– Lay means that you are putting, or setting, a physical or intangible object down.
– Lie means that you, or someone else, is going to rest in a horizontal position.


Although lay and lie are both present-tense verbs, you should only use lay when the subject of your sentence is acting on an object. To put things simply, think of this verb as meaning “to put” or “to place” when you’re describing a direct object.


  • Tomorrow, I think it would be better to lay out my clothes before work.
  • When I lay my keys on the couch, I can never find them when I need to.


The word lie refers to an action that is accomplished by the subject of a sentence. However, unlike lay, it will never have a direct object attached to it. This means that lie cannot express an action that is performed to another object. Whether you’re writing an SEO article or simply writing in your diary, think of this word as meaning “to rest” or “to recline.”


  • You should probably go and lie down if you’re starting to feel sick.
  • I like to lie out on the grass and enjoy the sunshine on my face.

Now Go and Lie Down

After all of that, you deserve to go and lie down, as long as you keep these rules in mind from now on. Are there any other commonly confused words or phrases that you have a hard time with?

Cara Secrist
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