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Verbs, Word comparisons

Note 38 – ‘To lay’ and ‘to lie’

For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link –  If you would prefer to dive straight into note 38, then please read on…

To lay and to lie

I really like the way the The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library) explains about the words lay and lie. I’ve summarised my findings for you below:

1. To lay (i.e. mostly about putting objects down)

Lay (present tense) / Laid (past tense)


  • It takes a lot of effort to lay a lawn
  • I laid the duvet on my new bed

2. To lie (i.e. when resting on something)

Lie (present tense) / Lay (past tense)


  • When I lie down, I go straight to sleep
  • She lay in bed for a whole week with the flu

Care: You will notice that the past tense of lie is lay in this case, but do not confuse this with the example 1 ‘to lay’.

3. To lie (i.e. to tell something that isn’t true)

Lie (present tense) / Lied (past tense)

  • I never lie to anyone
  • Jamie lied to Samantha about the missing tickets

Further notes

Bernard C Lamb in his book The Queen’s English, explains that ‘Lay’ is a transitive verb, transitive meaning that the object of the sentence receives the action.  In example 1 “…to lay a lawn”, the transitive verb is ‘to lay’ and the object is ‘a lawn’. 

To lie is intransitive and no object receives the action here.  As he explains, there may be an indirect object in the sentence, but it isn’t the one receiving the action. 

I’ll talk more about transitive and in transitive verbs another day as it could get a little confusing.

I hope today’s been a good one for you.  Please remember that blog requests are always welcome.

Until tomorrow…


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Twitter: @madeirasandra  and  @tipsandluxuries

Reference list

The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)

Bernard C. Lamb The Queen’s English (2010), UK


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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