Lay Down vs. Lie Down: What is the Difference?

Many English speakers encounter the conundrum of choosing between “lay down” and “lie down” when expressing the action of reclining or placing something in a restful position. The confusion typically arises because the past tense of “lie” is “lay,” which sounds like the present tense of another verb altogether.

The Main Difference between Lay down and Lie down

Lay Down vs. Lie Down: Choosing the Correct Word Easily Pin

Lay down vs. Lie down: Key Takeaways

  • Lay” requires an object while “lie” does not.
  • Use “lay down” when placing something, “lie down” when reclining by yourself.
  • Past tense confusion arises because “lay” is also the past tense of “lie.”

Lay down vs. Lie down: the Definition

What Does Lay down Mean?

Lay down is a transitive verb, which means it requires a direct object – something or someone being placed down. When we lay something down, we are actively placing it into a position, usually flat.

  • Example 1: Every night, we lay our phones down on the charging dock.
  • Example 2: We lay the book down on the table after we’re done reading.

What Does Lie down Mean?

Lie down, in contrast, is an intransitive verb. It doesn’t require a direct object; instead, it involves the subject taking action to recline or to assume a flat position by themselves.

  • Example 1: After a long day, we lie down on the sofa to relax.
  • Example 2: We lie down on the grass to watch the clouds.

Lay down vs. Lie down: Usage and Examples

When we use “lay down,” it’s crucial to remember that this verb requires an object, something that is being placed down. It’s all about actively doing something to an item or object. We often say things like We lay the book on the table or Let’s lay the blanket on the grass.

On the other hand, “lie down” is a verb we use to describe someone or something assuming a resting position by themselves. No object is acted upon here. We use “lie down” for situations where the subject reclines or rests. Examples include, We lie down after a long day or The dog lies down in the shade.

Here’s a quick reference to help keep them straight:

Verb Usage Example Sentence
Lay Transitive We lay the cards on the table.
Lie Intransitive We lie down at nap time.

Past tense can be tricky. “Lay” becomes “laid” (We laid the tiles yesterday), while the past tense of “lie” is “lay” (We lay down for an hour last Sunday).

We must keep in mind that “lay” and “lie” are often confused because “lay” is also the past tense of “lie.” A simple trick is to remember that you lay something down, and people or animals lie down by themselves.

Tips to Remember the Difference

  • Lay requires an object: Think of a layer that is always laid over something.
  • Lie is just the subject: Imagine someone saying, “I want to lie alone,” which involves no object.


  • Lay: has a short a sound as in “place” which is an action you perform on something else.
  • Lie: has a long i, and you do it when you want to recline by yourself.

Lay down vs. Lie down: Examples

Example Sentences Using Lay down

  • Before we leave the picnic, let’s lay down the blanket on the ground.
  • It’s important to lay down the rules before the game starts.
  • Could you lay down the book on the table for me?
  • Every night, I lay down my glasses on the nightstand.
  • After painting, we lay down newspapers to protect the floor.

Example Sentences Using Lie down

  • When you’re tired, it’s best to lie down and rest for a while.
  • The doctor said to lie down if I feel dizzy.
  • Our dog loves to lie down in the sunny spot by the window.
  • As the movie started, I decided to lie down on the couch.
  • If you’re not feeling well, you should lie down until you feel better.

Related Confused Words

Lay down vs. Laid down

Lay down is the present tense form, indicating the action of placing something down.

  • Example: We always lay down a blanket before having a picnic.

Laid down is the past tense and past participle of lay down.

  • Example: Yesterday, we laid down new carpet in our living room.

Lie down vs. Laid down

Lie down refers to the act of reclining or going to a prone position.

  • Example: After a long day, we lie down to rest.

Laid down is a common mistake when one means to use the past tense form of lie down, which is lay down.

  • Correct: We lay down for an hour last night.
  • Incorrect: We laid down for an hour last night. (This uses the past tense form of “lay down,” not “lie down.”)