Lie Down or Lay Down? Complete Guide (Helpful Examples)

“Lie down” or “lay down?” That is the question today. We need to know which verb choice is appropriate for us in our writing. The better we understand the differences, the better our writing will look.

Lie Down or Lay Down: What’s The Difference?

You “lie down” when you are deciding to recline or relax. It is the act of a person who “lies” on the floor. You “lay down” when you place something down beneath you or on a nearby surface. The two meanings are not identical.

Lie Down or Lay Down: What's The Difference?

To help you with it, you can refer to these examples:

  • I need to lie down.
  • I have to lay the phone down.

As you can see, if a person “lies down,” it means they need to relax or take the weight off of their feet for a moment.

However, we need an object to “lay down” if we are planning on using this spelling variation.

It’s a subtle difference, and it’s one that manages to trump even the most seasoned of English native speakers from time to time. If you can make sure you get this right after this article, you’ll be doing a great job at putting your own English skills far above the rest!

When To Use “Lie”

It’s time to take a closer look at each of the verbs. After all, their meanings are almost identical, yet their uses are different. It’s not often we come across something like this in English.

“Lie” works when there is not an object present. Instead, we refer to a person who needs to “lie down” to relax or take the weight off their feet.

We do not always need to talk about ourselves “lying down” either. For example, all of the following sentences are correct:

  • I lie down.
  • He lies down.
  • We lie down.

The pronoun is not important. What is important is that there isn’t an object mentioned within the sentence.

Check out the following examples if you need a bit more help with it:

  1. I think I need to lie down. I’m going to go to bed now.
  2. He wants to lie down! Give him some space so he can do it.
  3. Would you like to lie down for a moment? I think it might help you.
  4. Should you really lie down right now? I feel like there’s more we need to do.
  5. I don’t want to lie down! I have too much energy!
  6. Can we just lie down for a moment again?
  7. I would like to lie down! I don’t have time to listen to you!

When To Use “Lay”

“Lay” works in a different way. The meaning of the word is the same as “lie,” but there is a different context we must follow.

“Lay” works when we are placing an object down. We always need an object to be present (i.e. a phone, mug, or anything that we can hold onto).

Again, the pronoun does not affect the spelling or definition. After all, the pronoun only changes who is placing an object down in this case:

  • I lay the cup down.
  • He lays the phone down.
  • We lay the trimmers down.

As long as an object is present, “lay” is the verb choice we should stick to.

A few more examples will go a long way to help you with this:

  1. I need to lay these scissors down before they hurt somebody.
  2. Can you lay those bricks down over there?
  3. Would you lay the phone down for a moment and help me, please?
  4. I managed to lay the picture down for once, even though it pained me.
  5. Lay it down and come over here! I need you.
  6. Lay down your firearm and put your hands in the arm!
  7. Lay down your equipment while the sergeant is talking to you!

As a quick side note, it’s also possible to “lay down” people. However, we only use this verb choice when we are writing the person as the object in the sentence.

To avoid confusion, this is what we mean:

  • I need to lay Timmy down for bed.
  • I have laid Millie down now.

A Simple Trick To Remember The Difference

So, how do we go about remembering the difference? It might help to have a quick tip in place, and we think we know just the one!

  • pLAce
  • recLIne

If you look at the above words, you might start to realize what we’re getting at. We’ll make it slightly more obvious for you, though:

  • p(LAY)ce
  • rec(LIE)ne

You should remember that “place” and “lay” have the same “A” sound when spoken aloud. Therefore, it’s helpful to remember that we “place” and object to “lay it down.” “Recline” and “lie” have the same “I” sound, so we know that a person “reclines” when they “lie down.”

Laying vs. Lying

Finally, it might help to see whether the same rules apply no matter what verb form of “lie” and “lay” we use.

“Laying” and “lying” both follow the same rules. “Laying” applies when objects are being placed, while “lying” applies while people are reclining and relaxing.

Interestingly, the spelling of “lie” actually changes when we are using it in the gerund form. It would help to remember that, so these examples will act as a reminder:

  • Correct: I am lying down on the bed right now.
  • Incorrect: You need to be lieing down to stay comfortable.
  • Correct: I want to be lying down at home!
  • Incorrect: Can we be lieing down in our comfy beds again?

While that may seem confusing, the same spelling differences don’t apply when we look at “lay.” Thankfully, we can keep the gerund form as “laying,” like so:

  • I am laying the object down now.
  • I am laying the phone down, okay?
  • He will be laying it down in just a moment.
  • You should be laying the grass down out there for me!

Now, all we need to do is put it all together! One last table might help you to make sense of all the different forms we can use for “lay” and “lie.”

No matter what tense we use, we should always follow the rules. “Lay” is for placing, while “lie” is for reclining.

How Many People Have Trouble Knowing The Difference Between Lay And Lie?

Using the keyword research tool Ahrefs, we have estimated the total number of searches on the difference between “lay” and “lie” in The United States. Our findings are quite surprising!

Each month, more than 15,000 people search for the difference between “lay” and “lie” and variations of this search query.