Three different verbs: to lay, to lie and to lie

To lay is a verb that commonly means to put or place something or someone (a baby or yourself for instance) in a horizontal position or to place something somewhere.  As an action verb it will have a direct object (something or someone that receives the action). If the verb expresses an activity and has a direct object it is called a transitive verb.

To lay - laid - laid (laying).

Similar to the Danish verb: at lægge - lagde - lagt.

Examples "to lay":

Fold the blanket and lay it on the sofa.
I lay the magazine on the table (now).
Peter folded the blanket and laid it on the sofa (yesterday).
He has laid the book on the table.

To lie is a verb that often describes an animal or person being in a horizontal or resting position or a thing being kept in a certain place. It cannot take a direct object and is neither an action nor a transitive verb - hence called an intransitive verb.

To lie - lay - lain (lying)

Similar to the Danish verb: at ligge - lå - ligget.

Examples "to lie":

I lie down (resting, now).
I want to lie down now, I am tired.
She lay down for an hour yesterday (resting - past tense).


The confusing bit is that the past tense of "to lie" is "lay", which is the infinitive and makes the present tense of "lay" - remember this.

Exercise here - more exercises at

To lie - lied - lied (lying) means not to tell the truth but a made-up version or story. It is a regular verb (the basic form "lie" conjugated by adding -ed, but in this case only the -d as it already ends on an -e). The "ie" is changed to "y" when you add the suffix -ing.

Infinitive Past Simple Past Participle Present Participle
Navnemåde Datid Datids tillægsmåde Nutids tillægsmåde
To lay laid laid laying
To lie lay lain lying
To lie (untruthful) lied lied lying
Notice that the present participle of the verb to lie (resting position) and the verb to lie (not telling the truth) are both "lying" - but the correct meaning will be understood in the context.


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