Following up on Busy Mom’s lead, I present an often-confused pair of related verbs: “lie” versus “lay.” I find that even people whose use of the language is otherwise impeccable can confuse these at times.

Remember these two points:

  • “Lie” is not what you do to something, it’s simply something that you do.
  • “Lay” is not a thing you can simply do. You must do it to someone or something else.

If you find conjugations and examples helpful, here you go. I’m using “the baby” as a logical thing that one might lay down on a regular basis, and finishing the sentences with “down” because I feel that helps clarify the difference between “I lie” as in lying down versus “I lie” as in telling a lie.

Present Tense:

To Lie: To Lay:

I lie down. I lay the baby down.

You lie down. You lay the baby down.

He/she/it lies down. He/she/it lays the baby down.

We lie down. We lay the baby down.
They lie down. They lay the baby down.

Seems simple enough so far, doesn’t it? Let’s continue.

Past Tense:

To Lie To Lay

I lay down. I laid the baby down.

You lay down. You laid the baby down.

He/she/it lay down. He/she/it laid the baby down.

We lay down. We laid the baby down.

They lay down. They laid the baby down.

If you compare the present tense “lay” column to the past tense “lie” column, it’s easy enough to see where the confusion comes from.

Mnemonic: Wherever I lie down, I lay my body down.