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Choosing the Right Verb: Laying vs Lying Explained

by subhasree nag
Last Updated on: December 12, 2023

There are words in the English dictionary that sound a lot alike but mean something completely different. Grammar is really tricky. It makes rules and then contradicts itself completely. Let’s take the words lying and laying. They would be very similar but are completely different when put into context.

Laying And Lying – The Difference

Cambridge Dictionary says lay means “to put something in especially a flat or horizontal position, usually carefully or for a particular purpose.”  Laying is a transitive verb that means to place or put something down, and it requires an object.

Laying And Lying - The Difference

Cambridge Dictionary says lie means “to be in or move into a horizontal position on a surface.” Lying is an intransitive verb that means to be on a horizontal surface and does not require an object.

Well, don’t get stressed. A transitive verb is just a way of differentiating verbs into two separate groups, which require an object and the other one doesn’t.

Be careful while using the spellings. Lieing is not the present participle of the word lie. The ‘I’ becomes ‘y’. Just to make things clear, keep in mind that lying and laying are not the same. If you are not speaking the truth, then you are lying and not laying.

Lying in bed or Laying in bed?  

It is not very difficult to understand the difference between ‘laying in bed’ and ‘lying in bed.’ You just have to remember how to use the verbs.

Lying in bed or Laying in bed  

Transitive verbs are used when there is an object involved. So it is okay to say that laying can be used where there is an object related in the sentence. It is like putting something in some place or some position. So when a table or bed is put into reference, then we would use lay or laying.

Example: The books are laying on the table.

The box is laying on the bed.

Verbs like lying, which are intransitive verbs, do not require an object. So it is quite obvious to say when we are talking about someone or a person, we say “lying in bed,” and when we are talking about an object, we say “laying in bed.”

How To Use Laying?

The word lying is a homonym as well. Now, what is a homonym?

A homonym is a word that sounds the same but has different meanings. So the word lying can have both meanings. It can be used as lying, as in lying on the bed or lying, which means the act of telling something which is not true.

How to use lying

Let’s check on some examples.

  • The cat is lying on the bed.
  • The dog is lying on the sofa.
  • I think I will be lying down after an hour or so.
  • The girl was lying unconscious, and nobody came to help her.
  • The keys are lying under the mat.

Now, let’s see some of the correct uses of laying as well.

  • My sister is laying the baby down for a nap.
  • She is laying her clothes on the floor.
  • He keeps laying his money on the ground.
  • The kids are laying their papers on the desk.

Lying Down vs Laying Down: When To Use Which Word?

The terms laying down and lying down have similar meanings. ‘Laying down’ means to put down or place something or someone in a horizontal resting spot. On the other hand, ‘lying down’ means putting oneself in a horizontal resting position. 

But there is also a big difference between these two phrases. ‘Lying Down’ is an intransitive verb which means that it can stand alone and does not require any direct object to convey a complete thought. Here is an example – 

  • She is lying down.
  • The dog is lying down.

On the other hand, laying down is a transitive verb. This means that this verb requires a direct object to complete the meaning. Check out the sentence below – 

  • She is laying down. 

Does the above sentence make any sense? No, right? That is because it requires an object to receive the action. But if we add an object to the same sentence, such as – 

  • She is laying down the baby in the crib.

Now the sentence conveys a complete meaning because the object ‘baby’ is the recipient of the action of the verb.

Here Are Some More Example Sentences With Lying Down: 

  • After a long day at work, I enjoy lying down on the couch and watching my favorite TV show.
  • The doctor instructed me to lie down and relax while she examined my abdomen.
  • I couldn’t sleep, so I spent the night lying down and staring at the ceiling.
  • The sun was scorching, so we found a shady spot and lay down on the grass to cool off.
  • My back was aching, so I decided to lie down on the floor and stretch for a few minutes.
  • The baby was fussy, so I gently rocked him until he fell asleep and then carefully laid him down in his crib.
  • The hiker was exhausted, so he found a comfortable spot and lay down to rest for a while.
  • The massage therapist instructed me to lie down on the massage table and relax my muscles.
  •  I love lying down on the beach, feeling the warm sand between my toes and listening to the soothing sound of the waves.
  • The patient was feeling weak, so the nurse helped him lie down on the hospital bed and adjusted his pillows for comfort.

Here Are Some More Example Sentences With Laying Down: 

  • The construction workers were laying down concrete to create a new sidewalk.
  • The artist was laying down bold strokes of paint on the canvas to create a vibrant masterpiece.
  • The farmer was laying down fresh hay in the barn to provide comfortable bedding for the animals.
  • The chef was laying down slices of tomato on the sandwich to add a refreshing burst of flavor.
  • The carpenter was laying down floorboards to create a smooth and sturdy surface.
  • The gardener was laying down a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  • The electrician was laying down electrical wiring in the newly constructed house.
  • The teacher was laying down the rules and expectations for the students at the beginning of the school year.
  • The athlete was laying down his strategy for the upcoming race, visualizing each step in his mind.
  • The writer was laying down her thoughts and ideas onto the blank page, crafting a compelling story.

Let’s see how they can be used in different tenses.

Let's see how they can be used in different tenses

Present Tense – Lay

Example – Please lay the blanket over him.

Present Participle – Laying

Example – I was laying the shirt on the bed.

Past Tense – Laid

Example – She laid down the papers as soon as she was done with the exams.

Present Tense – Lie

Example – Why don’t you lie down for a while?

I would love to lie with him under the stars.

Present Participle – Lying

Example – She has been lying on the sofa with her cat all morning.

Past Tense – Lay

Example – She lay down because she wasn’t feeling well.

Well, let’s make things a bit easy for you. Here is a process that will help you to figure out where to use lying and where to use lying. Just as acronyms help in learning difficult tasks, certain associations of words can help us remember things clearly.

When trying to decide what to use laying or lying, the words place and recline help a lot. There is ‘LA’ used in place, so here we will be using the word laying, and the word recline has got ‘LI’ in it, so here we will be using the word lying.


Well, here we hope that we have covered it all. Everything that was confusing you and stopping you from using the words laying and lying, we hope, is cleared now.

Just keep in mind when a certain object is related, then it will be laying, and when there are no objects concerned, it will be lying.

Recommended Reading:

✍️ Flier vs Flyer: Learn The Difference And Use Each Correctly

✍️ Indubitably: A Closer Look at its Definition and Its Synonyms

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