We cannot tell a lie: “Lie” vs. “lay” is confusing.

Clarity lies only a few paragraphs away.


The GIF of Pinocchio notwithstanding, this post will not be dealing with lie (tell an untruth). The past tense of that “lie” is simply lied. Your English teacher lied if he or she told you that it’s something else.

Instead, this post will deal with lie (be in a horizontal position), which is often confused with lay (put into a certain place or abstract location).

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at lay:

That wasn’t too bad, was it?

Let’s take a look at lie:

At this point, you’re probably thinking, What’s so confusing about this?

Wait for it …

Why didn’t our English-speaking forebears insist that the past tense of “lie” be “lied” in all contexts?

… #confused #amirite

Don’t worry. If you need help—or TLDR—refer to this:

Remember: This is for “lie” (be in a horizontal position). Again, the past tense of “lie” (tell an untruth) is “lied.”

If you’ve understood this post, you will agree that the following sentences are grammatically correct.

  • In which room should I lay the new rug?
  • Emma laid her books on the desk and turned on her computer.
  • When I get home, I’m going to lie in the hammock and relax.
  • Yesterday, my dog lay on my lap and took a long nap.
  • Jim has lain on the couch since noon.
  • Every night, Finn lies on his bed and sleeps inside his sleeping bag.

Time’s up! Lay down your pencils and get back to awwing at cute animals.