Learning "Lay" and "Lie"

by Gerald Grow, Ph.D.

Division of Journalism
Florida A&M University, Tallahassee FL 32307
available at http://www.longleaf.net/ggrow
temporary site: http://www.longleaf.net/quiz/laylie/

Learning the difference between "lay" and "lie" is not difficult, but it is also not simple. To use these two verbs correctly every time,

  • you need to know a few things about verbs,
  • you need to know the problem areas in "lay" and "lie,"
  • and you need some practice.

What follows is:

Step 1: a brief review of regular and irregular verbs (how "lay" is regular and "lie" is irregular)
Step 2: a way of distinguishing "lay" and "lie" by understanding that "lay" takes an object and "lie" does not
Step 3: exercises overcoming the common substitution of "lay" for "lie" in everyday speech
Step 4: exercises zeroing in on the two meanings of the word "lay"
Step 5: summary and exercises and practice tests to put it all together

I have added self-grading exercises that allow you to practice each step. I hope you find them helpful.

Good luck, and enjoy!


Apology: A few of the practice exercises do not load properly with some browsers.
If you have this problem, try a different browser.

There is an alternative to the grammar tattoo!

copyright notice and permission to use













This exercise is dedicated to all the teachers who helped me learn my native language--especially my mother, Elva White Grow (later Clark), who taught implicitly that the command of language was our ticket to the world.

This is an unsupported project, carried out on my own time. Any limitations are my responsibility. If you find errors, lay them on me; do not lie. .

Copyright notice

To the best of my knowledge, this approach to learning "lay" and "lie" by breaking them down into a series of anaytical steps accompanied by exercises is original. I cannot find any source from which I might have learned it. I developed it the way teachers develop most things--from trying to help students learn the subject.

All original materials on this page and on related pages are copyright © 2001 by Gerald Owen Grow. You may use these materials freely for non-profit educational or personal use, provided credit is given by including this notice. They may not be reproduced on other media or used for commercial purposes without my written permission. To request permission,


The quizzes and exercises were created on a wonderful freeware program, Hot Potatoes.

The major credit goes to the most remarkable piece of freeware I have ever used--developed for nearly a thousand years by millions of people: the English language. English is not a demo, although it is in perpetual Beta. You have the full version. Share it freely with anyone. Register your copy by using it well.