Verb Mistakes #9: Past Tense forms of Lay and Lie
Two verbs that give many native speakers fits are to lay and to lie. I’ve written more than one post to explain how lay is transitive and lie is intransitive. If you require a review, please use the links at the end of this article.
This post focuses on mistaken spellings of the past tense forms of lay and lie.
The principal parts of lay (to place) are lay, laid, (has) laid:
Please lay the books on the table in my office. (present)
We laid the key on the counter. (simple past)
You have laid the wrong pattern on the worktable. (past perfect)
The principal parts of lie (to recline) are lie, lay, (has) lain.
Lie down, Cash. (present)
He lay in bed all day. (simple past)
He has lain there long enough. (past perfect)
Here are some typical errors:
INCORRECT: As soon as the children laid down on the soft quilt, they fell asleep.
CORRECT : As soon as the children lay down on the soft quilt, they fell asleep.
INCORRECT: That is the coolest fish tank I have ever layed eyes on.
CORRECT : That is the coolest fish tank I have ever laid eyes on.
INCORRECT: She lay the baby on her stomach next to him, thankful she didn’t wake.
CORRECT : She laid the baby on her stomach next to him, thankful she didn’t wake.
The past tense of the verb lay that refers to egg production is also spelled laid:
INCORRECT: About a month ago she layed eggs for a week, then stopped.
CORRECT : About a month ago she laid eggs for a week, then stopped.
Subscribe to Receive our Articles and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our exercise archives, writing courses, writing jobs and much more!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!
2 Responses to “Verb Mistakes #9: Past Tense forms of Lay and Lie”
Yes, it’s probably worthwhile to note that layed is not a word. At least then, even when picking the wrong word you’ve at least spelled it correctly. It’s hard to applaud, “She layed the baby on her stomach” even though it sounds-out correctly.
Can you recommend a reference for diagramming sentences?
The biggest problem for most writers is recognition of whether a verb, in a particular sentence, is transitive. This often occurs with long complicated sentences.
For those who write less often, there is the problem of ‘lay’ being present tense of one verb and past tense of the other. And ‘layed’ is simply a misspelling of ‘laid’.
A rule I try to follow is this: If you cannot diagram a sentence in your head, rewrite it. Okay? So, I write a lot of short stubby sentences.