Difference Between Lay vs. Lie

Main Difference

The main difference between the verbs lay and lie is that the word lay is a transitive verb, as there is a direct object following it and the word ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb because it does not have any direct object.

Lay vs. Lie

Lay and Lie are a pair of words. They have different spelling, and different pronunciation. Lay and lie have very different meanings. Lay means “to put or place.” lie means “to rest,” “to assume or be situated in a horizontal position.” Lay refer to putting something down in a horizontal position. The lie is used to place in a horizontal position. It has one more meaning, which is to make an untrue statement. (A second verb ‘to lie means’ to deceive, or to pass off false information as if it were the truth.) An example to clear the prior concept is, John, laid the laptop on the table and lay on the couch. In this example, laid (simple past form of the verb ‘lay’) is used to mean that the laptop is placed on the table. Whereas, lied (simple past form of the verb ‘lie’) which means that the subject rests on the couch. This need to be clear that in case of lay, you lay something down. But in case of a lie, you lie down. Hence, lay requires a direct object. A lie does not require a direct object. This rule also applies to lay and to lie (not lieng). The verb lay is a transitive verb, as there is a direct object following it. The word ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb, as it does not have any direct object.

Comparison Chart

LayLie
A verb which means to put or place a person/object down in an even positionA verb which means to recline or to rest on a surface, with back supported
Pronunciation
leɪlʌɪ
Kind of Verb
Transitive VerbIntransitive Verb
Indicates
An action in progressA person’s position
Action
Applied on the thingApplied on your self

What is Lay?

We use the word ‘lay’ to put or place an object in an even position, i.e., to arrange something in a horizontal position. The verb lay is a transitive verb; hence, it always requires a direct object. It describes an action done to something, so it must have a direct object, i.e., something or someone has to be receiving the action of the verb to lay. As the meaning of this verb “to place,” “to put” is revealing that there is something in the sentence must be getting “put” or “placed.” Lay means to put an object or a person down in a flat position. When we use to lay in a sentence, it means that we are putting down an inanimate object. The verb lay represents an action that is under progress. The past tense of lay is laid. The verb to lay is conjugated with the direct object in each sentence.

Examples

  • SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE: I lay my mobile phone on the table every night before turning out the lamp.
  • CONTINUOUS PRESENT TENSE: I am laying my mobile phone on the table right now.
  • PAST TENSE: I laid my mobile phone on the table last night.
  • FUTURE TENSE: I will lay my mobile phone on the table tonight.
  • PAST PERFECT TENSE: I have laid my mobile phone on the table every night for years.

What is Lie?

The word lie refers “to be” or “to move in a reclining or resting position on a surface,” i.e., sofa, bed, floor, or any other object. Lie means “to assume or be situated in a horizontal position, to rest. The lie is used to place in a horizontal position. It has one more meaning, which is to make an untrue statement. (A second verb lie means to deceive or to pass off false information as if it were the truth.) A lie does not require a direct object. The word ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb, as it does not have any direct object. Lie shows some action. The subject of the sentence involves in that action, but nothing is being acted upon (it has no direct object). The verb ‘to lie’ does not express the kind of action that can be done to anything, such as the meaning “to recline” or “to rest.” It is also used in different meanings. These are to set something in the flat position, to produce eggs, to risk something, usually as a bet, to make a plan, and to make a claim, blame or accuse someone in a formal manner. The examples for these are, he laid the files on the desk, hen lay eggs, he would not win that game, I would lay thousands on it, are you aware of the allegations laid on you.

Examples

  • SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE: I lie here on this couch every day.
  • CONTINUOUS PRESENT TENSE: I am lying here on this couch right now.
  • PAST TENSE: I lay here on this couch
  • FUTURE TENSE: I will lie here on this couch
  • PAST PERFECT TENSE: I have lain here on this couch every day for years.

Key Differences

  1. Lay means “to put or place” whereas lie means “to rest,” “to assume or be situated in a horizontal position.”
  2. The verb lay is a transitive verb, as there is a direct object following it on the flip side the word ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb, as it does not have any direct object.
  3. Lay refer to putting something down in a horizontal position while lie is used to place in a horizontal position.
  4. Lay requires a direct object conversely lie does not require a direct object.
  5. The verb lay indicates an action in progress; on the other hand, the verb lie indicates a person’s position.

Conclusion

Lay and lie are two words with similar meaning. But the close study of these words reveals that they are different from each other.

Author:

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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