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

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Step 1: Regular and Irregular Verbs

Regular Verbs

In order to learn "lay" and "lie," you first need to know the difference between regular and irregular verbs.

As you will see, "lay" is a regular verb.


The Pattern of Regular Verbs

Regular verbs follow a familiar pattern:

Present

I

you

he, she, it

we, they

call

call

calls

call

Past

I, you, he, she, it, we, they called

Present participle

I

you

he, she, it

we, they

am calling, was calling

are calling, were calling

is calling, was calling

are calling, were calling

Past participle

I, you, he, she, it, we, they have called, had called


Examples of Regular Verbs

Here are some sentences using regular verbs in all the tenses:

Present: I call her every morning. She calls me, too.

Past: She called me yesterday evening. I called right back.

Present Participle: While I was calling her on Tuesday, the phone went dead. I am calling her again now. Her line is busy because she is probably calling me now. I have been calling her every day for the past year.

Present Perfect: I have called her five times today. She has called me six times. We have called each other daily for the past year.

Past Perfect: Even though I had called her twice that morning, I wanted to talk to her again. By noon yesterday, she had called me three times.

To keep this review simple, I did not list the future tense above. Let's add it now. The future tense adds "will" to the present or "will have" to the past.

Some people insist that it is necessary to say "I shall" and "we shall," though "I will" and "we will" are commonly accepted.

Future: I will call her tomorrow. We will (or shall) not call each other on Tuesday.

Future perfect: By this time tomorrow, she will have called me ten times. I will have called her twelve times. (Or: I shall have called her twelve times.)

 


The 4 Parts of a Verb

For simplicity, we say a verb has four parts--such as call, called, calling, called--out of which the other verb forms are constructed.

Most verbs in English follow this regular pattern. Here are some examples to remind you--ending with the regular verb "lay."

Think of the following chart this way:

  • Present: I look now
  • Past: I looked yesterday
  • Present Participle: I am looking all the time
  • Past Participle: I have looked many times.

Present Past Present Participle Past Participle

look

bark

climb

lay

looked

barked

climbed

laid

looking

barking

climbing

laying

looked

barked

climbed

laid


"Lay" as a Regular Verb

"Lay" has the same parts as other regular verbs--only it uses the spelling "laid" and not "layed" for the past tense:

Present: Now I lay the book on the table.

Past: I laid the book on the table yesterday.

Present Participle: While I was laying the book on the table, the phone rang.

Past Participle: After I had laid the book on the table, it fell off.


"Lay Away," "Lay Out," etc.

There are several other verbs that include "lay." These are regular and they all take an object: Lay away, lay by, lay down, lay off, lay on, lay up, and lay out. Glance over them before going any further.


Practice Using the Regular Verb "Lay"

Practice using the regular verb "lay" by itself (Laying Weights).

 

Irregular Verbs

Irregular Verbs do not follow the regular pattern of regular verbs.

As you will see, "lie" is an irregular verb.


Some Irregular Verbs

English is rich in irregular verbs, including many of the most common verbs:

 Present Past Present Participle Past Participle

run

see

fly

eat

put

do

ran

saw

flew

ate

put

did

running

seeing

flying

eating

putting

doing

run

seen

flown

eaten

put

done

As you can see, the irregular parts are found in the past tense and the past participle. The present and present participle of an irregular verb are regular.


"Lie" as an Irregular Verb

"To lie" (meaning to rest or repose) is an irregular verb. Its past tense and past participle are irregular:

 Present Past Present Participle Past Participle
lie lay lying lain

Note: A different verb, "to lie," meaning "to tell a lie," is regular: lie, lied, lying, lied. Examples: I (tell a) lie. He lied. We were lying. They had lied.


All of the Verb "to lie"

Click here to review the full conjugation of the irregular verb, "to lie" (to repose or rest).


Quick practice distinguishing regular from irregular verbs.

Practice using "to lie" (Lie in Bed).

Step 2

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