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Common Pitfall: “Lie” versus “Lay”

Two commonly confused verbs are lie and lay. The confusion becomes more understandable when we look at the past tense forms, which resemble each other.

PresentPastPast Participle
laylaidlaid
lielaylain

Lie is an intransitive verb meaning to recline.

  • (Present) I often lie in bed and read a book.
  • (Past) The cat lay on top of the television.
  • (Past perfect) His coat had lain on the floor for days before he hung it up.

Lay is a transitive verb meaning to put or place (something).

  • (Present) Please lay that package on my desk.
  • (Past) I laid my book down when I answered the phone.
  • (Past perfect) I forgot where I had laid my glasses.

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