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Is there anyone who is not confused with the proper usage of the verbs “lay” and “lie”? I know I am from time to time. So that’s why I developed a “visual aid” to help myself remember what is what. It works for me and I hope it’ll be helpful for you as well.
1) Lay means to “place,” or “put” and it is a transitive verb. That is, it needs an OBJECT to make sense. You always lay SOMETHING.
VISUAL AID: Imagine the letter “a” in “Lay” as someone bending over to place a heavy object on the ground.
“Our engineers will lay the foundation of our new headquarters building.”
Both the past and perfect tense of “Lay” is “Laid.” Lay-Laid-Laid (1-2-2).
“Our engineers have laid the foundation of our new headquarters building.”
2) Lie, an intransitive verb that does not need an object, means to “recline” or “remain.”
VISUAL AID: Imagine the DOT on the letter “i” in “Lie” as the head of someone resting/reclining on a couch or bed.
But watch out — the PAST tense of lie is also lay! That’s why it can get pretty confusing.
“The puppy would not lay still even for a second!”
So when you see “lay,” you have to figure out whether it is to “put/place” or “recline/remain” from the context.
However the perfect tense of “Lie” is “Lain.” Lie-Lay-Lain (1-2-3).
“The overturned truck had lain in the ditch the whole night.”
3) Lie has yet ANOTHER meaning, as you know – telling an untruth.
Its past and perfect tenses are “Lied” and “Lied.” Lie-Lied-Lied (1-2-2). Usually it’s easy to tell this form of “lie” from the other.
(“Puppy lied.” Correct? No. Puppies don’t talk. It should be “Puppy lay.”)