To lie and to lay

It’s very confusing for foreign speakers because many English people use the verb ‘to lay’ instead of the verb ‘to lie’.

Let’s explain:

To lie (verb): (1) to be horizontal on a bed or floor, e.g. I was lying in bed; I lie on the floor when I do exercise.

Past tense of ‘lie’ is (unfortunately) ‘lay’. e.g. I lay on the bed yesterday. Present perfect: I have lain on the bed for hours. (This is not often used these days though.)

To lie (verb): (2) to tell an untruth. Past tense: ‘lied’. I lied when I told you I had gone to London.

To lay (verb):

(1) to put something down. e.g. I decided to lay the flowers down on the ground.

(2) To set a table: Would you please lay the table (put the knives and forks on the table)?

(3) To lay an egg – what a chicken does.

(4) To lay a woman – have sex with her.

(5) It can also mean the same as ‘to lie’ e.g. I want to lay down on the bed.

Past tense: ‘laid’. e.g. I laid the table yesterday, I gently laid the flowers on the ground.
Present perfect: I have laid the sheets out in the garden.

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