What is the difference between Lie Down and Lay Down?


In today’s episode I explain the difference between Lie and Lay, I also include some phrasal verbs and lots of examples to help you understand them better. Enjoy :)


Hola amigos, you are listening to English Made Simple, this is episode number 72, numero setenta y dos.

G’d day amigos, welcome to another episode of EMS, my name is Milena from www.englishmadesimple.net.

Hope you are having an awesome weekend, what were you up to this weekend? What did you do on the weekend, basically? I went to a Russian restaurant on Saturday, ate Russian food and danced to Russian music. My friend from Russia was celebrating her birthday so I went there with my Chilean husband who didn’t understand a word of Russian. It was awesome!

I speak a little bit, so having said this now, instead of saying hello to you I should’ve just said Zdrastvuyte. That’s Hello in Russian. Zdrastvujte.

Anyway, enough of chit-chat let’s get straight into it.

So as promised in my last episode, number 70 I would like to explain the difference between Lie and Lay. And I will use today’s episode to explain the difference between these two verbs. Funnily enough, even the native speakers get confused when using these 2 verbs.

Also, I’d like to thank JuanPablo who asked this question in my Facebook Group about an English expression What Lies Within. This actually prompted me to prepare an episode about the difference between Lie and Lay. Because to Lie doesn’t just mean to tell lies, or to be dishonest. It means something else as well.

So, today’s episode will be a little bit exhilarating, so grab a cup of coffee, I recommend two shots of espresso, and make it a strong coffee, because there will be a lot of information for you to take in.

So are we ready to start amigos? I hope so!

Let’s begin.

There are two meanings when it comes to the verb To Lie – it’s spelt L I E. If you look it up in the dictionary you will see two meanings. One means To Lie, to be dishonest –  ot in Spanish, Mentir and the second meaning is to assume horizontal position, for example: you can lie down on your bed and rest. To lie, is to rest, or descansar in Spanish.

First of all let me explain what the verb to Lie means. To tell lies is to intentionally give false information, to be dishonest and deceitful, to falsify information. In Spanish it is simply Mentir.

To lie is a regular verb, the past tense is lied and participle is lied. For example, you’ve lied to me.

Me mentiste. You’ve lied to me.

For the purposes of today’s episode I will focus on the second definition of LIE which was: To rest. In Spanish it would be Descansar or Recostarse. To lie.

Let’s keep it simple now. This is an irregular verb, the past tense is lay and participle lain. The simple past tense is L A Y, remember this one guys.

Now, I am going to use an example with the verb Lie.

When I go to bed to sleep, I find it easier to fall asleep when I lie on my back. But some people like to lie on the side or on their belly or stomach to help them fall asleep. I like to lie on my back. Back as in espalda in Spanish.

In this case, I am using lie to assume horizontal position, to lie down.

Awesome, have another sip of that coffee, we are entering the world of phrasal verbs.

Lying down is a phrasal verb. To lie down more specifically.

To lie down is simply, to rest, descansar in Spanish.

For example, I am going to lie down on the couch and watch some Spanish telenovela.

To lie down on the couch, on the sofa and watch some Spanish telenovela.

In this episode I want to teach you the phrasal verbs I hear native speakers use, and the ones I tend to use often as well.

So the next phrasal verb that is common to hear is Lie Around.

To Lie Around means Flojear o Procastinar, in English is procrastinate or to be lazy, to lie around.

According to weon inteligente or the online dictionary, it means to be lazy and unproductive.

Sundays for example, are great for this.

For example: Sunday is just great for lying around and doing nothing. Every Sunday I would lie around the house.

Cool bananas, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The next phrasal verb is To Lie Ahead

If something lies ahead especially something that is unpleasant or difficult, it is going to happen sometime in the future and you will have to deal with it at some point in the future.

For example, we just have to be ready for whatever problems lie ahead. We have to anticipate and be prepared for the future as we never know when we could encounter problems in the near future. Normally, there are some problems that lie ahead. We just don’t see them yet. It can happen when you are working on a project or making travel plans or making any type of plans for the future. There could be some problems in the future and we just have to be prepared.

In Spanish it would be: Tenemos que estar listos para lo Que venga o para lo que nos espera, para lo que esta por venir. Para lo que nos depara el futuro.

To Lie Ahead. Wow that was profound, that was very deep for today’s topic. I sound like a philosopher, the future lies ahead.

Don’t worry guys, we are moving onto something a bit simpler. The next phrasal verb is To Lie Awake. In Spanish it would be desvelarse, in English you lie in bed with your eyes opened unable to sleep. To be awake…with youre eyes opened.

Let’s use this example in the past tense. The past tense of LIE is Lay!

I lay awake yesterday thinking of you.

And in the present tense it would be: I miss you and sometimes I lie awake at night thinking of you. Right? Are you with me so far? Awesome!

And finally, the last phrasal verb I want you to learn is to Lie In. What this means, is basically to sleep in, to stay in bed late.

Again, Sundays – I am going to use Sundays as example again – Sundays are awesome for sleeping in. For example, I lay in this morning because I was out celebrating my friend’s birthday. Another example could be, the newlyweds, a couple that just got married, they are called newlyweds, well normally, and they love to lie in on Sunday mornings. Just stay in bed late and cuddle, because they are in love.

How are we doing so far amigos? Are you following me so far? Easy peasy japanesy.

And, now I would like to move on to the next verb to Lay. According to weon inteligente or according to a dictionary online, to lay means to put something, an object, to put something into a certain place. It usually involves an object whereas Lie doesn’t normally involve an object, that’s the big difference between these two, Lie and Lay.

Going back to LAY –  L A Y. The past tense is Laid and participle is Laid.

So both of these verbs are irregular.

LAY can also mean to position or prepare something for action, for example, the new government of Trump will need to lay the foundations for a new health care plan. Ok, to lay foundations.

The best example of Lay is to lay a book on the table. In this sentence, book is the object, el libro. John laid the book on the table. John put the book on the table. When John laid the book on the table we assume he put it in the horizontal position.

To Lay, L A Y. That’s a simple definition of lay.

Simple so far?

And now phrasal verbs guys, yeeey yupee!

The first phrasal verb using the verb LAY or Laaaay – is Lay down. To Lay down something means to clearly state rules and guidelines, to state something important. In Spanish it would be Imponer. Or in English, To Impose rules or guidelines for my non Spanish speakers.

For example, my boss (el jefe) laid down new guidelines at work today. Guidelines, one word, means rules, or reglas in Spanish, or una guia de trabajo. Guidelines.

The most common expression you will hear either in the movies or among native speakers, they would be something like To Lay Down the Law. For example, my boss was laying down the law at work today. He was laying down the ground rules. He was laying down the guidelines at work, the rules.

To Lay down something also means to stop using something, in Spanish it’s dejar de lado o parar de hacer algo.

For example, after recording today’s episode, I am going to lay down the microphone. I am going to put the microphone down.

Moving right along to the next phrasal verb, Lay Off (despedir del trabajo)

To lay someone off is to stop employing someone or what I hear most often is to let someone go, this is normally the case when the company doesn’t have enough money to pay their employees so they have to let them go, to lay them off. In Australia and New Zealand we use a term called redundancy. When the company is unable to pay their employees they have to make the employees redundant. When someone is laid off or made redundant, the situation is usually out of employee’s control, it’s not employee’s fault that they are being laid off.

While we are on this topic, there is a difference between to fire and to lay off. When a person is fired it is because they did something wrong, they could be fired if they stole money or mishandled company’s confidential information. So in this case, a person is fired.

But let’s go back to Lay off.

For example I am going to use my personal example: I was laid off from my job last year because the company was going through a restructure. True story. I got made redundant last year. I got laid off last year. Another example for this lay off, is to stop doing something.

My husband thinks I need to lay off nutella and wine. I’ve been eating too much nutella. He said Milena you should lay off nutella. You really need to lay off it! (dar de baja or parar de comer la nutella in this case).

And I am like whatever!

And the last phrasal verb using the verb To Lay is: Lay over (hacer escalas cuando viajas en un avion por ejemplo)

To lay over means to make a stop in the middle of the journey, usually at an airport during a flight. For example: My trip laid over in Auckland, New Zealand on my way to Santiago last year.

A Layover can be a noun as well, it’s spelt as one word, layover,  which is basically the stop in between a journey, or in Spanish, escalas. In my previous example I could say, I had a layover in Auckland. Both the phrasal verb and noun are widely used in these situations. You can use either of them when you are speaking with native speakers.

And in New Zealand and Australia we say Stopover, instead of layover, we say Stop over, most of the time we say a Stopover.

And here we go amigos, is this clear as mud? Tan claro como el barro. Excellent, I am glad to hear that. If you need to, listen to this episode again and think of some more examples for yourselves that will help you remember Lie and Lay.

I can recommend a Simple strategy to help you remember when to use Lay or Lie. If you are a fan of Bon Jovi, you will have heard of their famous song called Lay Your Hands On Me. How does it go? Something like: Lay your hands on me…. Stop singing Milena. Stop singing! Which means, Put or Place Your Hands on me.

I am sure there are lots of Bon Jovi fans listening to this episode.

Remember we use Lay together with an object, your hands are object in this case. Lay Your Hands on Me.

Another example using the verb Lay is:

A chicken lays eggs. A hen lays eggs. La gallina pone huevos. A hen, is female chicken if you will. Normally, animals of a feather variety or just call them birds, they lay eggs. They don’t give birth, human beings give birth to babies, but birds lay eggs to little chicks.

And to lie is simply to rest. You could by lying down on the couch at home listening to this (episode) podcast, or you could be sitting on the train, on the way to work. OK.

Now we can differentiate between lay and lie.

I hope these examples help you remember the difference between Lie and Lay. Awesome!
Thank you for joining me amigos. If you have enjoyed today’s episode please share it with your friends, help a friend out, sharing is caring, don’t be selfish. You’ve been an awesome audience, until next time! Hasta la proxima!

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