Whoever thought lay should be the past tense of lie should be shot. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but couldn’t they have just used lie again? Or perhaps made up another word?
So many people – myself included – can’t keep lie and lay straight. I’ve learned something that might be helpful. I still refer to my notes every single time just to be sure I’m using the correct word. First let’s cover the basics and then I’ll tell you the trick.
lie verb (i): recline; to rest in a horizontal position.
Lie conjugates as lie, lay, lain, lying. So it looks like this:
Present tense: Today my dog lies in the sun.
Past tense: Yesterday my dog lay in the sun.
Present perfect tense: My dog has lain in the sun all day.
Present continuous tense: My dog is lying in the sun.
lay verb (t): to put or place in a position of rest or recumbency.
Lay conjugates as lay, laid, laid, laying and looks like this:
Present tense: Today I lay the book on the table.
Past tense: Yesterday I laid the book on the table.
Present perfect tense: I have laid the book on the table.
Present continuous tense: I am laying the book on the table.
The key is to remember that lay means “to put”. If you can substitute “put” for the verb and the sentence still makes sense, use “lay”.
As far as remembering the conjugations of lie and lay, well, I wish I could tell you I had an easy trick. Which is why I said I refer to my notes on these two. Every. Single. Time.
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