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Lay vs. Lie

Chickens lay eggs, and philosophers lie in bed at night, wondering which came first. The answer to that question won’t help you know which word to use, but this website will.


  • Those cats were just laying all over the furniture.
  • You can lie that spare change right on the counter.
  • She said she needed to lay down for a bit.


Much like sit and set, one is done with your body and one is done to an object. You lie on the bed. You lay the pillow on the bed. As you now know, lay is a transitive verb so it needs some kind of object. Present tense is so easy! Those cats are lying on the furniture, and she needs to lie down. First, though, she should lay that spare change on the counter.


This word pair becomes tricky when you need past tense: I lay [past tense of lie ] on the couch all day, but first I laid [past tense of lay ] the cat on a pillow. I had laid [past participle of lay ] the cat there before, and when she had lain [past participle of lie ] there long enough, she pounced on me.

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