Lying (position) - Errors in Usage

Errors in Usage

The verb 'to lie' is an intransitive verb. People sometimes mistakenly use the verb 'to lay' intransitively when they mean 'to lie,' for example *'The cat is laying in the sun' instead of, correctly, 'The cat is lying in the sun.'

The transitive verb 'to lay' means to place a thing or person on a more or less horizontal surface. The direct object of the verb is the thing/person being placed in a horizontal position. Usually extra information is given in the complement of the sentence, telling us where the thing/person is being placed. For example, 'I lay my clothes on the bed when I'm packing for a holiday.'

The confusion between these two verbs may arise because 'lay' is the past form of 'to lie.'

For example:

'I lie in the sun every day on holiday' (present) vs 'I lay in the sun every day last week' (past)


'I lay my clothes out on the bed in the morning before I get dressed' (present) vs 'I laid my clothes out on the bed while I was packing for my holiday' (past)

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