Lay, Lie, Lain, Laid and All Those Other Crazy Things!

Lie down!Let me start by admitting that I had to research this before I could address this topic. I frequently find that people are confused on how to use lay, lie and laid. The meanings of these words can be innocent to sexually lewd, so it’s very important you know what the right word is!


Okay, before we dive right in, you should know the various forms of lie. Lie has an irregular verb form, meaning you don’t add -ed to the end to make it past tense. This is where one of the issues comes in–you need to know two additional words to know the past forms of lie! Let’s take a look at what these words are:

Lie: Present tense. “I need to lie down.”
Lay: Past tense form of lie (also present tense “lay“–I’ll address that in a bit). “I lay in bed all day yesterday.”
Lain: Past participle of lie. “She has lain in bed all day.”

So now that we know the different forms of lie, let’s find out what it actually means, shall we? Lie means to “recline” or “rest” in a horizontal position. It also means to have sexual intercourse (“lie with” someone). So guess what? You know how people say “I got laid last night?” What they really mean is “I got lain last night.” 😉 We’ll talk about why in the lay section. But as you and I both know, it’s not PROPER to talk like that, so let’s move on! 😀

Lie is known as a “complete verb.” It’s something a subject does to him or her self. That being said, if you tell your dog to “Lie down,” that will technically be a complete sentence because the verb includes the subject. However, when not being used as a command, you should list the subject for optimal clarity. For example, “I don’t feel well; I’m going to lie down.” Notice, since it’s not a command, I still insert the subject.

Lie as in “to not tell the truth” works differently. It functions like a regular verb and uses -ed for the past tense forms. I won’t be delving into that today.


Much like lie, lay is also an irregular verb. Let’s look at the forms before continuing.

Lay: Present tense. “Chickens lay eggs.”
Laid: Past tense. “The chicken laid an egg.”
Laid: Past participle. “I have laid the books on the table.”

Lay has a different meaning than lie, even though the past tense of lie is the same word as present-tense lay (say that three times fast). Lay means “to put something down” or “to place.” So with the example of, “I got laid last night” it would mean that the person put you down–like a chicken laying an egg. Awesome.

Lay is also different than lie in the sense that it is not a complete verb. It NEEDS a direct object. Period. It always needs a direct object. For example, I can’t just say “I laid.” You need to know what was laid. Notice in my earlier examples, there are always direct objects–namely “egg” and “books.” So I can’t say, “I laid,” but I CAN say “I laid the books on the table.” In the “I got laid…” example, YOU are the direct object. 😀

Final Thoughts

I know these are hard to remember, and you might forget them. However, be sure to remember that “lie” means to “recline” and “lay” means to “place.” Good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.

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