Difference Between Lay and Lie

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 06, 2023


Difference Between Lay and Lie

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There are certain words in the English vocabulary that can confuse the reader or the writer. Although these words do not look or spell the same as well as they sound very different in pronouncing still people get confused with the usage of some of these words due to their almost similar meanings in a sentence. This article also discusses two such words that are – ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’. One of the hardest problems to answer in English is the distinction between the verbs lay and lie. Both terms refer to something or someone in a horizontal position, but the difference between the two terms relates to who or what is horizontal—either the direct object, which is the person or thing being acted upon, or the verb's subject, which is the person doing the action.

The verb "lay" means to set or position something or someone down. Being a transitive verb, it needs a direct object to perform its action. We typically use it for an object which is being put down or laid down by someone. We commonly use it for inanimate objects.

For Ex-

  • Can you lay down the sheet on the bed?              
  • You can lay the books on the table.              
  • Lay the flowers on the ground.              
  • I saw the bird laying eggs in her nest yesterday.

There are several definitions for the word "lie," one of which is "to be in a flat position on a surface. ‘Lie’ does not need an object in this sense. It is an intransitive verb. The verb "lie" does not require a direct object; it might be something you do or someone else does.

For Ex-

  • I am lying on the bed all day since yesterday.             
  • My mother hates when I lie down on the couch like a potato.             
  • Can we lie down to see the clouds and the sky?             
  • Don’t lie down on the snow bed for too long, it is very cold you might get sick.

Lay vs Lie

The key difference to remember between these words is that we use ‘Lay’ when we refer to something or someone being put down. Whereas, ‘Lie’ is used when we refer to something or someone being on a flat surface. ‘Lay’ is used as a transitive verb while ‘Lie’ is used as an intransitive verb in a sentence. We need a direct object when we are using ‘Lay’ in a statement while there is no need for a direct object while using ‘Lie’.

For Ex-

  • Lay this blanket on the ground to avoid insects.             
  • Can you lay these clothes in the cupboard?             
  • Lay down the plates on the table.             
  • I lay down the crockery on the table while we eat our dinner.

For Ex-

  • Lie back down on the sofa.             
  • Can I lie down on the bed, I am very tired.             
  • Please lie down for the checkup.             
  • Mam can I lie down for a bit, I am feeling a little sick.

Difference between Lay and Lie in Tabular form

Parameters of comparisonLayLie
DefinitionThe basic definition of ‘lay’ is when we talk about something/someone being put down in a straight position.To "lie" is to recline or to rest with one's back supported on a surface.
Verb formIt is used as a transitive verb in a sentence.It is used as an intransitive verb.
Object/SubjectIt is usually used when we are talking about an inanimate object.It talks about a direct object.It is used for an individual rather than an object.We do not talk about a direct object.
IndicatesIt depicts an action in progress.It describes a position of an individual.
ExamplesKen laid the books on the desk.Don’t forget to lay sheets on the table.Please lay the plates on the table.It is important to lay a strong foundation before any construction.We are lying on the beach.Can I lie down for a minute?I lie on my beanbag and read my books.No one is benefitted when you lie to each other.

What is ‘Lay’?

When placing an object in an even position or arranging things horizontally over a plane, we use the term "lay." Nevertheless, depending on the context in which we use it, it can have a range of meanings. We use it as a transitive verb in an expression. ‘Lay’ is commonly used with a direct object and the object most times being an inanimate object. This word talks about an action being in the process.

How and when to use ‘Lay’

When we place anything flat by setting it.

For Ex-

  • Jake laid the important files on the desk, you can find them there.              
  • I laid the flowers on the dining table for the dinner.              
  • Mom, can I lay my head on your shoulder?

It can also be used when we describe the process of animals laying eggs.

For Ex-

  • My farm hen laid four eggs yesterday.              
  • The birds lay their eggs in the nest.              
  • Who laid the eggs here in the middle of the road?  

When we create a plan.

For Ex-

  • Our plan is not working the way we laid it out.              
  • We laid the plan according to our schedules.                
  • The execution is different from the plan we laid out.

To make a formal claim, place blame on, or level an accusation at someone:

For Ex-

  • They laid harassment allegations on you.
  • Several claims were laid against you.             
  • The court laid allegations on the victim.

Examples –

  • Can you lay the clothes properly in the cupboard?
  • Lay the exam sheets on the computer desk.
  • My leg is injured, can you help me lay down the boxes?
  • My friend’s hen laid many eggs this season.
  • Lay down the currency notes on the bank counter.
  • The father laid down the baby in the crib as he was asleep.
  • Our teacher instructed us to lay down the bags outside the classroom.
  • I laid my eyes on the sales offer outside the mall.
  • This was the best plan we ever laid.
  • She laid her hands on my head.
  • Can you lay down these cards in the correct order?
  • You can lay your head on my shoulder.
  • How can you lay your hand on your best friend?
  • Lay an extra sheet of cover to prevent any leakage due to rain.
  • I can’t decide what to wear from all these dresses that are laid on my bed.
  • Lay down your documents on the table for verification.
  • Can I lay down my clothes here to iron?

What is a ‘Lie’?

The word "lie" refers to being or moving in a reclined or relaxing position on a surface, such as a bed, sofa, ground, or any other item. It is used as an intransitive verb in a sentence. It lacks an object as its focus is on the subject i.e., an individual rather than an inanimate object. This word describes the position of the subject rather than the action. Also, if we use ‘Lie’ in its other meaning it can refer to the state of being told a lie or to say something that is not true.

How and when to use ‘Lie’

To hold or assume a reclining or resting position.

For Ex-

  • My mother is lying on the bed as she is not well.
  • Can I lie down on the sofa?
  • If you are not feeling good, please lie down on the bed.

To show that something is situated in a specific location or is moving in that direction.

For Ex-

  • The stationary shop lies at the end of this street.
  • My house lies at the corner of the bookstore.
  • Where does your school lie?

To make a false statement to deceive someone:

For Ex-

  • I wasn’t expecting that she would lie to me like this.             
  • Did you lie to me regarding your marks?
  • Why is she lying to me?


  • Can I lie down for a bit I am not feeling very well.
  • You can lie on this couch it is very comfortable.
  • My mother lied to me about the sale in the mall.
  • I can’t believe my friend lied to me.
  • My cat likes to lie on my lap sometimes.
  • Don’t leave your dirty clothes lying on the table.
  • Why are you still lying on the bed you’re getting late.
  • Our boss lied to us about the promotion.
  • Let’s lie down on the couch to watch a movie together.
  • Frank is lying on the beach all day.
  • You should not lie down on your job; it may hamper your reputation.
  • Our professor lied to us about the special workshop.
  • The answer lies in the question itself, try to find it.
  • I like to lie on my friend’s bed when I visit her house, it is very soft.
  • Lying has done no good to anyone.

Main differences between Lay and Lie (in points)

  • The verb "lay" refers to setting something flatly on the ground. On the other hand, to "lie" is to continue to move around while resting or reclining on a surface, i.e., at your own will.
  • Given that ‘lay’ is a transitive verb, a direct object follows it. The term "lie" is an intransitive verb, on the other hand, because it lacks a direct object.
  • When we use the verb "lay" in a sentence, we are setting down an inanimate item. In contrast, when we use the word "lie," individuals are acting independently.
  • While ‘lie’ refers to a position in which a person is either reclining or changing into a reclining position, ‘lay’ denotes an action that is in progress.
  • Examples of ‘Lay’-
    • Please lay down the flower petals on the ground.                               
    • You can lay this cloth piece on the table.                                
    • Lay the cards in front of me.                                
    • Lay the cutlery beside the plates on the table.
  • Examples of ‘Lie’-
    • If you are feeling tired lie down for a bit.                                 
    • Why did you lie to me?                                
    • Can I lie down on your bed?                                
    • John is lying on the ground after he fainted.


Understanding English vocabulary and grammar can be a little complex sometimes. Due to the presence of words that almost seems similar maybe in spelling or their pronunciations but in reality, their meanings are very different. This article also talks about two such words that are- ‘Lay’ and ‘Lie’. It gives you an overview of the basic definitions of both words, the key differences between them, how and when to use them in a sentence, and various examples for a better understanding of their usage. Lay is the simple past tense form of lie, which is the main factor contributing to the misunderstanding between lay and lie. You must learn these verb tenses off by heart to avoid confusion, and you must also recognize the object; for example, use lay if the sentence involves a direct object, and use lie otherwise.

We use ‘Lay’ when we talk about putting something on a flat surface or ground. It is most commonly an inanimate object. It is used as a transitive verb therefore it requires a direct object in an expression. It depicts an action being in the process.

For Ex-

  • Lay down the curtains from the window.             
  • The exam sheets are being laid down at the reception, you can check them there.             
  • Can we lay down our painting canvases here?

When we use ‘Lie’ we are referring to something or someone to be reclining or resting on a surface. It is mostly a horizontal surface. ‘Lie’ talks about a person or an individual in a sentence rather than an inanimate object. It is used as an intransitive verb in a sentence therefore there is no need for a direct object in the expression. Rather than the action, it describes the position an individual is in. It is also used to describe a situation where someone is saying something untrue or false

For Ex-

  • You shouldn’t have lied to your mother.               
  • My father generally lies down on the sofa after he returns from the office.              
  • Can you just lie still at a place I’m trying to draw your posture?


  1. https://grammarist.com/usage/lay-lie/  
  2. https://blog.reedsy.com/lay-vs-lie/  
  3. https://www.gingersoftware.com/english-online/spelling-book/confusing-words/lay-lie  
  4. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar/style-and-usage/when-to-use-lay-or-lie.html  
  5. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/lay-lie/  
  6. https://languagetool.org/insights/post/lay-vs-lie-word-choice/  
  7. https://www.thesaurus.com/e/grammar/lay-vs-lie/


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"Difference Between Lay and Lie." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-lay-and-lie>.

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