Laid, Lain, Lay, Lie

Now this one is more for me, than you. These four words are a curse to me, because I cannot remember which word I should be using. I’ve been told a million times, I had a friend send me a photocopy of the rule, but still I don’t know.

(Note: The following usages are for Australians. They might change elsewhere in the world, so please — please — do not confuse me by telling me it’s done differently elsewhere. I need to know how it’s done in my own country.)

Laid, Lain

Laid is the past tense of the verb to lay. You always lay something in some place. The hen laid an egg; She laid the plates on the table.

Lain is the past tense of the verb to lie. You lie or rest somewhere. I have lain on the bed for a rest.

Lay, Lie

Lay is a verb meaning to put something down. To lay a path in the garden.

Lie is a verb meaning to “lie down”, “to be at rest”. It is dangerous to lie in the sun. It can also mean to tell an untruth. Do not lie to me. Lie can also be a noun. That is a lie; you know it is untrue.

Source: The Foundation Grammar Dictionary by Gordon Winch

4 thoughts on “Laid, Lain, Lay, Lie”

  1. The more I read about lie and lay and their forms the more confused I am. In the following example, which is correct?
    -How many times had he lay awake?
    -How many times had he lain awake?

  2. I’m sorry CP, I really can’t help you out with an answer because I don’t know. I refer to this post every so often, but then I usually just change the format of the sentence so that I don’t have to use the word. It’s easier.

  3. To C P

    How many times had he lain awake?

    The confusion lies in that the simple past tense of lie is lay (past participle: lain) and resembles the simple present of lay. Lie= to rest, lie down is an intransitive verb . Lay= to put or place something (on a surface) is transitive.


    Additional difficulty: the regular verb lie (to tell an untruth) resembles the verb to lie : to rest.
    Lie (to tell an untruth) -lied-lied.

  4. “Lain is the past tense of the verb to lie. You lie or rest somewhere. I have lain on the bed for a rest.”

    WRONG! Lain is the past participle, not the past tense. The past tense of “lie” is “lay”

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