Lie and lay are two words that seem to cause some of the greatest confusion, even among English native speakers. Lie means to recline; lay, on the other hand, means to put or place something. Lay is a transitive verb, meaning that there is always an object after it. (Lay the book on the shelf. Book is the object.) The principal parts of lie and lay are listed below.
lie: lie, lying, lay, (have) lain
lay: lay, laying, laid, (have) laid
The confusion generally seems to occur with the forms of lie. The following sentences illustrate the correct and incorrect uses of lay and lie.
- I lie [not lay] on the floor when I watch television.
- I lay my keys on the table when I arrive home from work.
- I am lying [not laying] on the floor watching television.
- I am laying my briefcase on my desk to remind me that I have work to finish.
- Yesterday I lay [not laid] in bed all day with a fever.
- Yesterday I laid my briefcase on my desk and forgot about it when I left for work.
- (have) lain/(have) laid
- I have lain [not have laid] in bed all day with a fever.
- I have laid my briefcase on my desk to remind me that I have work to finish.
Although these are two extremely confusing verbs, with a little practice, you should be able to remeber the differences. Unfortunately, I don't know of any helpful hints to use for remembering how to use lie and lay correctly. My only suggestion is to memorize them and practice.