Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lie vs. Lay

Just about everybody mixes up the words "lay" and "lie." Here is an example:

Wrong: He lied down. (Or, "He laid down.")
Right: He lay down. (If it was himself; or, if it was a package or something he was carrying, "He laid it on the table.")

But that's not the most common error made with "lie" and "lay." It gets confusing when you change the tense, because then wrong becomes right:

Wrong: He lays down.
Right: He lies down.

Heard on the local news: "The man was laying on the ground." (Laying what? An egg? He was actually lying on the ground.)

Wrong: Lie that package on the table. (Doesn't sound right, does it?)
Right: Lay that package on the table.
  • Generally things you are holding are things you "lay" down. A purse, a baby, a package, a grocery bag.
  • Conversely, you, your husband, or your toddler should "lie" down when sleepy.
  • Teach Rover to "lie down," not "lay down."

Tip: A hen lays eggs. You lay your head on the pillow. Pretty much everything else lies.


  1. My grandmother taught me the lie/lay rule (and still reminds me to this day when I get it wrong). She always said that the way to remember the rule is to remember that people lie (as in, tell untruths) but objects don't...which is why you can LAY the book down before you LIE down to sleep. Correct?

  2. Yes, bless your grandmother's heart. What a great way to remember the difference.