Which is correct, 'laying' or 'lying'?

The verb ‘laying’ means ‘putting something somewhere’. The verb ‘lying’ means ‘telling falsehoods’ or ‘resting’ or ‘reclining’.
  • The woman is laying the plate on the table.
  • The girl is lying to the teacher.
  • The woman is lying on the bed.

Meaning and use of the verbs ‘lay’ and ‘lie’

  • The verb ‘lay’ means ‘to put down’ or ‘to place something in a resting position’
  • The verb ‘lie’ means ‘to tell a falsehood’ or ‘to recline’
To simplify our discussion, we will ignore the meaning ‘to tell a falsehood’. Most of the confusion occurs where ‘lie’ is used in the sense of ‘to rest’ or ‘to recline’ and ‘lay’ is used to mean ‘to put down’. The examples below will demonstrate that ‘lay’ needs an object - something being laid. On the other hand, ‘lie’ cannot have an object. The MLA Style Guide
  • Correct: I lay the cell phone on the table.
  • Incorrect: I lie the cell phone on the table.
  • Correct: He lays his coat on the sofa.
  • Incorrect: He lies his coat on the sofa.
  • Correct: The mother lays her child in the crib.
  • Incorrect: The mother lies her child in the crib.
  • Correct: After doing yoga, I like to lie down for a few moments.
  • Incorrect: After doing yoga, I like to lay down for a few moments.

Lay vs. lie

In which of the sentences below are the verbs ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ used correctly?
  • I'm going to lay on the couch.
  • Your wallet is laying on the dresser.
  • He wants to lay down.
None of the above sentences are correct! Let’s look at the examples below:
  • Incorrect: I'm going to lay on the couch.
  • Correct: I'm going to lie on the couch.
  • Incorrect: Your wallet is laying on the dresser.
  • Correct: Your wallet is lying on the dresser.
  • Incorrect: He wants to lay on the grass.
  • Correct: He wants to lie on the grass.




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Let’s review a few example sentences using the tenses of ‘to lie’ and ‘to lay’ presented in the image above:

Examples of the use of lay

  • I lay my keys on the table every night.
  • He lays his keys on the table.
  • I laid my keys on the table last night.
  • I will lay my keys on the table tonight.
  • I am laying my keys on the table right now.
  • I have laid my keys on the table every night for two weeks.
The verb ‘lay’ needs a direct object because it describes an action that is done to something. In other words, something or someone must receive the action of the verb ‘to lay’. It may help if you think of the verb as meaning ‘to put,’ or “to place.”

Examples of the use of lie

  • I lie in my bed every day.
  • He lies here.
  • I lay here yesterday.
  • I will lie here tomorrow.
  • I am lying here right now.
  • I have lain here every day for weeks.
The verb ‘lie’ will never have a direct object because it describes an action undertaken by the subject. It may help if you think of the verb as meaning ‘to recline’ or ‘to rest.’ Please note: In the examples above, the verb ‘laid’ was NOT used to mean ‘to recline’. The APA Style Guide

Example sentences which use 'lying'

  • Mr. Stryver was lying on his sofa, looking at his ceiling.
  • They traveled in the night, halting before daybreak, and lying about until the twilight fell.
  • He referred to her, as if she were lying in our presence.
  • My glance had fallen, but a few moments before, on the fragments of a broken sword, lying among the hay.
  • The letter was lying before me just completed, when I was told that a lady waited, who wished to see me.
  • Lying hidden in her bosom, was a loaded pistol.
  • Lying hidden at her waist, was a sharpened dagger.
  • Lying between the earth and the heavens, it partakes of the color of both.
  • Was this before you quitted the captain on account of his lying, or'`It was before oh, a long time before.
  • While lying in jail, his health began to fail, and he was threatened with consumption. answered Caderousse,``you merely threw it by I saw it lying in a corner.''
  • As we have said, he was lying on the deck.
  • He found Edmond lying prone, bleeding, and almost senseless.
  • As you live, say so, that these gentlefolk may not take me for some lyingchatterer.
  • Each of them was lying on at least four chairs, and had a large rough jacket on.
  • She was sitting on the ground, with her head and one arm lying on a chair.
  • "What I cannot understand," said I, "is why they should have spared you when they found you lying fainting in the garden.”
  • I remember nothing until I found myself lying on my bed trembling all over.
  • She was lying clutching my feet and quite motionless, with her face to the ground.
  • I thought of myself, lying here, when that first great change was being wrought at home.
  • Not realizing he's a defector, she assumes he is lying, and fires him.
  • The vessel is now a hulk lying in King Edward Cove.
  • In response, Marinković accused Kandić of lying.
  • Varner is lying on a bed under multiple layers of sheets.
  • A crunch begins with lying face up on the floor with knees bent.
  • He phones Hannah's father and apologizes for lying.
  • Another soldier was lying in a ditch with a rifle.
  • Although he is in the desert and the weather is dry, he has the impression of lying in water.
  • Towards the bridge of the song, Lavigne is shown lying in a bathtub.
  • Panchapandavar is still lying in the cans even after 30 years.

Example sentences which use 'lie'

  • But it is nothing strange, I hope, that men should lie in all ages.
  • My old dear bedroom was changed, and I was to lie a long way off.
  • Ray, lie down there and make yourself at home.
  • If it comes to that,' I said, 'pray take my bed, and I'll lie down before the fire.
  • If he didn't shut it up powerful quick he'd lose a lie every time.
  • She was to have my bed, and I was to lie in the sitting-room, to keep guard over her.
  • "Queequeg," said I, "get into bed now, and lie and listen to me."
  • You lie there; you books must know your places!
  • Three of these peaks lie on an international border.
  • They lie within the parish of Bangor.
  • They lie between the Big Belt Mountains and the Bridger Range
  • Most of the village's listed buildings lie within the conservation area.
  • However the school is considered to lie on Ripon Road.
  • The lowest points lie at above sea level.
  • It's always been my main career, and it's where my loyalties lie.
  • In their unanimous unity does lie the prosperity of Kurram valley.
  • With Robert, figures did not lie.
  • Multiple craters lie across the rim and within the interior.
  • You don't need to come out with a technical lie to do that.
  • These lie flat on the ground and are typically edged with scarlet hairs.
  • Sugako scolds her husband saying he should not lie to children.
  • They do not determine a lie but are a form of detecting concealed emotion.
  • His platoon mates who last saw him lie to Deerfield and the police.
  • Part of a slab, possibly made to lie flat over a grave.
  • The farms in Vik lie on old marine terraces, and many of the burial mounds lie on the edges of these.
  • His interests lie in quantum field theory and string theory.

Example sentences which use 'lay'

  • When he comes home every afternoon, he lays his coat on the chair by the door.

Example sentences which use 'laying'

  • He was laying the cable into the ditch.

Example sentences which use 'laid'

  • Some folders had been laid on the desk by the officer who was reviewing their contents.

Use of lie with the meaning ‘telling falsehoods’

  • I am tempted to lie about my weight.
  • I know him; I shall know if you lie.
  • Honest, now, do you live in a scow, or is it a lie?'
  • The naive young man did not know he was telling a lie to Hillary's advantage.
  • ``Well,'' said Maria,``what a lie he told!”
  • He would not have told a lie though he were shot to death with arrows.
  • This is how Snape was able to lie to Voldemort for years.
  • ``You lie,'' said Bob, with a tone of irresistible authority.
  • ``You lie,''repeated the nun a third time, with a still more imperative tone.
  • ``I do not believe there is a God,'' howled Grendal;``you do not believe it; you lie!''
  • I lied about my weight when I used a dating website.
  • Hillary displays a great natural gift of lying.
  • I have lied about my weight each time I have been asked.


Use of ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ in American English

This Ngram indicates the use of ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ in American books and magazines.

Use of ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ in British English

This Ngram indicates the use of ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ in British books and magazines.

Use of ‘lying’ and ‘laying’ in American English

This Ngram indicates the use of ‘lying’ and ‘laying’ in American books and magazines.

Use of ‘lying’ and ‘laying’ in British English

This Ngram indicates the use of ‘lying’ and ‘laying’ in British books and magazines.

More example sentences which use 'lie'

  • She had nestled down with him, that his head might lie upon her arm.
  • A whole world, with all its greatnesses and littlenesses, lie in a twinkling star.
  • His Dialogues lie on the next shelf, and yet I never read them.
  • It was like traveling into a far country, to lie there for one night.
  • You take your child and lie a while. You both seem very tired from your journey.
  • We came upon a great abyss, at the bottom of which lie darkness and obscurity.
  • If I wished to surprise him, it was evident this was the spot to lie in wait for him.
  • The prices of malt and oats seem here to liehigher than their ordinary proportion to the price of wheat.
  • Pray thou that thou mayst not lust to lie with her.
  • For me to believe that Don Quixote could lie, he being the most truthful gentleman and the noblest knight of his time, is impossible.

Trends in the use of ‘lying’ and ‘laying’

This graph shows the trends in the use of ‘lying’ by country. You can compare with this graph which indicates the trends in the use of ‘laying’ by country.

Trends in the use of ‘lie’ and ‘lay’

This graph shows the trends in the use of ‘lie’ by country. You can compare with this graph which indicates the trends in the use of ‘lay’ by country.


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