A small blog post that packs a lot of punch, the Grammar Grenade series will help blow apart all those confusing spelling, grammar and punctuation problems, once and for all!

Lay vs. Lie

In my last Grammar Grenade, Robyn asked if I had a trick for remembering when to use lay vs. lie.

While “lie” can have multiple meanings, in regards to this lesson and in very simplistic terms:

Lay means to place something in a position of rest

Lie means to be in a position of rest


To use lay, an object must be involved.

Lay the donut on the napkin beside my coffee, please.

After you lay the cement, then we will lay the tile.

The dog lay asleep in his bed, exhausted from playing fetch.


To use lie, an object is not required.

Lie down, and I’ll rub your feet.

Do you mind if I lie beside you?

You don’t look so good. Maybe you should lie down.

After I lay the baby down, I think I’ll lie down and rest, too.

Sometimes the easiest way to remember how to do something is to remember how not to do it.

A popular way to remember how not to use lay is to think of Eric Clapton’s classic song, Lay Down Sally. From our lesson above, we know the song lyric should actually be Lie Down Sally (unless Sally was Eric’s Number One fan and passed out in his presence, at which point Mr. Clapton instructs his bodyguard to lift Sally up and then, “Lay down Sally gently on the cot,” with Sally being the object).

However if, as we all suspect, Mr. Clapton wants Sally to be at rest so they can at long last have that talk, he should ask Sally to lie down instead.

All of the above examples refer to the use of lay and lie in the present tense. Properly conjugating them in past tense is tricky to say the least, which you can learn more about here.

Now lie back, relax, and let Mr. Clapton’s song always remind you of when to use lay and lie.

Which grammar issues would you like to see explained in future Grammar Grenades? Leave a comment below or email me. I’ll be happy to explain them.

Amanda MiliAmanda Mili
Your Business, By Design
Ottawa, Ontario – Serving Canada and the U.S.
email: [email protected]
website: www.amandamili.com

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