Lie or Lay

The words lie and lay can be very confusing. There are a few things to remember about these two words that will help.

To lie means to rest.
To lay means to place or to put [an object]

The forms of lay require a direct object. 
That means when a form of to lay is used, something ... an object, must be in the sentence receiving the action of lay. The presence of the object is a big clue. NOTE: Do not confuse a direct object with an object of the preposition.

Past Tense Examples:

Emily laid the vase on the table. Emily placed the vase on a table.
is the direct object. Laid is the past tense of lay. On the table is a prepositional phrase.

Emily lay on the couch. >> There is no direct object in this sentence. Emily is resting on the couch.
(on the couch is a prepositional phrase, making couch the object of the preposition.)

is the past tense of lie.

Present Participle Example:

The truck was lying on its side. >> There is no direct object in this sentence. The truck is resting; it is not placing. You would not say the truck was laying on its side. Lying is the present participle tense of lie.

Present Present Participle Past  Past Participle
lie(s) lying lay (have) lain
lay(s) laying laid (have) laid

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