The UVic Writer's Guide

Lie/ Lay

To lie means "to rest." It is an intransitive verb and thus never takes an object. Therefore, if you are resting you lie down. Past tense: "I lay." Past participle: "I have lain."

To lay means "to put" or "to place" and is used transitively. If you put something down you lay it down. Past tense: "I laid" Past participle: "I have laid."

All this may sound complicated, but it is worth learning, if only to avoid saying that you are about to produce eggs when you claim that you are going to "lay down." When Bob Dylan sings "Lay lady lay / Lay across my big brass bed," he is committing a similar crime.

The other verb "to lie" means "to say something untrue" and its parts are agreeably simple (I lie, I lied, I have lied). The pun "you lie like a rug" is correct in both senses.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 19, 1995