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Rams Write: Lay/Lie

Here you'll find a student-generated guide to writing and composition.

Introduction

Students often make the mistake of confusing lay with lieLie is used when the action is done by the subject upon itself, whereas lay is used when the action is done by the subject to a separate direct object.

Definitions

Lay: "To cause to lie" (OED v.1)

Lie: "To be in a prostrate or recumbent position." (OED v.1)

The two terms are extremely similar and one involves the other, though they have different uses. One can not lay on the floor themself; lay is something that they do to something else. In contrast, lie is used when the action is being done to oneself. 

Image

This cow is resting on the field. Since the cow is performing the action upon itself, it is lying on the field, as opposed to laying.

Examples

Example 1

Incorrect: I want to go lay down.    

Correct: I want to go lie down. 

Explanation: Using lay in the present tense requires a direct object separate from the subject, and "I" in the sentence is the subject, so lie is the correct word here.

Example 2

Incorrect: Sam and I will lie down our tools.  

Correct: Sam and I will lay down our tools..

Explanation: The tools are the direct object in the sentence, and the subjects are "Sam and I", therefore we should use lay to reference the direct objects.

Example 3

Incorrect: Vicki tells her dog to "roll over," and then "lay down" for a treat.

Correct: Vicki tells her dog to "roll over," and then "lie down" for a treat.

Explanation: What's the difference? Lay is used when there is a subject and separate direct involved. In this example, the dog is both the subject and the direct object of the action. That is why lie is used in the correct example.

Subjects and Direct/Indirect Objects

Khan Academy Lesson

Lay is used when the action is done by the subject to the direct object.

Lie is used when the subject is the direct object.

This page was created by/ MLA Citations

Semester: Fall 2019

Audrius Sebeda, Framingham State U, Class of 2023

Ashley Bianco, Framingham State U, Class of 2023

Nicholas Roberts, Framingham State U, Class of 2023

 

Works Cited:

laurainc1. "Farm Cow Field Free Picture." Needpix.com, www.needpix.com/photo/1027379/farm-cow-field-brown-lying-down-cattle-animal-countryside-dairy. Accessed 21 Oct 2019.

"lay, v.1." OED Online, Oxford UP, September 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/106496

"lie, v.1." OED Online, Oxford UP, September 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/106496.

“Lay vs Lie, Ask Linda!, English Grammar.” TEFL & TESOL Courses - ITTT, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1821N9qpg

“Meme Generator.” Laundry Viking Meme Generator- Imgflip, Imgflip LLC, 2019, imgflip.com/memegenerator.

“Subject, Direct Object, and Indirect Object.” Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/grammar/syntax-sentences-and-clauses/subjects-and-predicates/v/subject-direct-object-and-indirect-object-syntax-khan-academy