Lay and lie are two of the most commonly mixed-up words in the English language. This also stands true for their past tense versions. Even the most seasoned authors can have a hard time keeping these words in line.
There are very small differences between these words, and if you don’t know them you will confuse the words often. These three words are insanely tricky, so let’s dive right in.
Lied is the past tense version of the word lie. The word lie has several different meanings. It means to stay at rest while in a horizontal position. You would lie asleep at night. The past tense of lie(with this meaning) is lay and lain.
Lie also means to make an untrue statement with the purpose of deceiving someone else. Lied is the past tense version of this definition of lie.
When I asked him a question, he lied to me.
You lied to me and used me to get what you wanted.
Laid is the past tense of the verb “to lay”. You would use this word when you are saying that you put something down at an earlier time.
Laid means to put something down gently or carefully. It can also mean to put down or set something in a position for use.
I laid my head on his shoulder.
She laid the blanket down before the picnic started.
He laid out his clothes before going to bed.
Layed is another past tense of the word lay, but it is used much less frequently than laid. You should only use this word when you are discussing something that happened centuries ago and you need a word to match the time period.
The names were layed out in alphabetical order.
They layed the plants out in front of the house to prepare for planting.
How to Remember Lay vs Lie
There is a simple way to remember what the difference is between lay and lie. Think of the words “place” and “recline”.
pLAce has an LA in it like lay. recLIne has an LI like lie.
When you LAY something down, you are pLAcing that thing somewhere.
When you LIE down, you are recLIning yourself.
You can lay an object down, but you can’t lie it down. However, you can LIE and LAY yourself down. This is where it gets confusing.
The past tense is where things get even more complicated. The past tense of lie down is actually lay down. When you say that you lay down for a nap, you are actually saying you lie down, but you did it previously.
Rules of Grammar
English has some of the most confusing grammar rules that you will ever see. While lay and lie are technically two different words with different meanings, the past tense of lie is the word lay.
Lay and laid both mean that you set something down.
Lie, lay, and lain all mean that the subject is setting itself down, most likely in a horizontal position.
For the word lay, there is laid, laying, and have laid.
For the word lie, there is lay, have lain, and lying.
Then, there is the completely unrelated verb lie that means to tell a statement that is not true with the intent to deceive. The versions of this word are lied, have lied, and lying.
These words are very complicated, and change based on the past and present tense of the verbs. One thing is for certain that you shouldn’t use the word layed unless you are writing a historical piece.