"To lay" vs. "to lie"

Maria Murnane

Maria Murnane

Best-selling Author of the Waverly Bryson Series, and 2015 International Book Award Winner

I love yoga. I love my yoga teachers too. They are kind, positive, nurturing people who strive to make their students feel good inside and out.

They aren't always so great at grammar.

In nearly every class, at some point the teacher will gently say "Now lay on your backs." While I love this part because it means class is winding down, I always cringe a little bit at the grammatical error.

You LAY something else down. You LIE yourself down.

In the present tense, here are some examples:

CORRECT: I lay the book down and look up at him.

CORRECT: We lie down on our mats at the end of class and rest.

CORRECT: To end this war we must lay down our arms.

CORRECT: If we lie down on the grass, maybe they won't see us.

In the past tense, things get a little tricky. You LAID something else down. You LAY yourself down.

CORRECT: I laid the book down and looked up at him.

CORRECT: We lay down on our mats at the end of class and rested.

CORRECT: To end the war we laid down our arms.

CORRECT: We lay down on the grass, hoping they wouldn't see us.

In the present perfect and past perfect tenses, you HAVE LAID or HAD LAID something else down. You HAVE LAIN or HAD LAIN yourself down.

CORRECT: I have often laid the book down and looked up at him.

CORRECT: We have lain down and rested on our mats at the end of every class.

CORRECT: To end the war we had laid down our arms.

CORRECT: We had lain down on the grass, hoping they wouldn't see us.

I realize that this can be confusing, but like all grammar, it's also important. So lay down your pen and think about it before you put anything in ink.

-Maria

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