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Lie vs Lay


  • ‘Lie’ (verb) means ‘be in a horizontal or resting position on a surface’; also ‘deceive’.
  • ‘Lay’ (verb) means ‘place something down, ready for use’.

What’s the difference between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’?

  • These two verbs have close meanings: the placing of something onto, or being on, a surface. It is therefore easy to confuse them.
  • The key difference is that ‘lay’ is a transitive verb (i.e. requires a direct object for the action), and ‘lie’ is intransitive, describing something or someone moving on their own or already in position.
  • In the past tense/participle, the verb ‘lie’ takes the form ‘lay’, thus adding to the confusion.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘lie’

  • The ability to lie down is a crucial component of cow welfare.
  • The study explores children’s propensity to lie in stressful conditions.

Example sentences with ‘lay’

  • The scales were laid down in silica deposition vesicles.
  • The cables lay next to each other in open or closed trays.