Grammar for Geeks: Lie vs. Lay vs. Laid

In the strictest grammatical sense, 'lie' is an intransitive verb, whereas 'lay' is transitive. Conceptually, 'lie' is something you do to yourself, and 'lay' is something you do to something/someone else.

Word Example
lie You look tired. Lie down and rest.
lay Lay down the keyboard and step away from the computer!

The past tense, however, gives many people fits. The past tense of 'lie' is 'lay', and the past tense of 'lay' is 'laid'.

Word Example
lay She lay in the shade, remembering her youth.
laid He laid the infant in the crib.


Last updated: Thu Mar 8 11:12:54 PST 2001