Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Lying and Laying

english wordsLying vs Laying

When writing or speaking the English language, the difference between lying and laying is commonly misconstrued, and misused. The more you can connect to the actual definitions of lying and laying, the easier it becomes to use each word correctly for the specific acts.

Lying has basically two definitions. The first is the easiest to distinguish, because it means to tell an untruth knowingly. She was lying when she said she didn’t take the money from my wallet.

The second definition of lying is, quite simply, to be horizontal in your position. Lying down for a nap will help me feel better.

It’s not uncommon for people to use laying when referring to being in a horizontal position. It seems to be the easiest of the definitions to get mixed up.

The definitions for laying become simple when you look at them in their root form. Lay means the place. Used in a sentence, you could say: Lay the school books on the table and then go up to clean your room. Adding the ING suffix is simply a function of sentence structure. Laying the school books on the table she went up to clean her room. Most often you can check your use of the word by replacing the word in the sentence with place. Placing the books on the table she went up to clean her room.

Laying is also defined as producing eggs. The chickens are laying more eggs than we can eat.

Another good way to remember the difference between lying and laying, is whether there is an object in the sentence. Since we lay thing down, we need to have an object. Whether the object is a book, a brick, or a person (laying her down for a nap), you have to make sure in the sentence that you are laying something down.

Alternatively, lying has no object. It has to do with the state of one’s position. I am lying next to him listening to the snoring. You are referring to the state of your body’s position. Simple tricks like this make it easier to distinguish the two words.

A simple note: Do not always rely on your Word program’s green underline marking to recognize the difference. This is one commonly mis-corrected grammar highlights, for which Word is notorious.


1. Lying means to state an untruth knowingly.

2. Lying refers to the body’s horizontal position.

3. Laying can be interchanged with placing.

4. Laying also refers to the production of eggs.

5. Laying refers to an object, while lying refers to the person.

6. Do not rely on Word programs to accurately correct this grammatical issue.

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  1. In your 5th paragraph you’ve written “Lay means the place.”

    Perhaps it’s a typo…but ‘Lay’ means “to place”, not “the place”. Or rather “to lay” is the same as “to place”.

  2. So is “lying” (in the sense of “reclining”) only used to describe a living creature?

    For example, should I say, “There’s no extra money laying around my house,” or use “lying” since the money would be horizontal? The money, if it existed, would not necessarily have been placed (laid) around the house; it could have fallen out of someone’s pocket, or drifted down from money trees… πŸ™‚

    All joking aside, I recently said the above sentence, and would like to know if it’s correct.

    • Yes, your money can be lying (or not lying) around the house. You can use lying for inanimate objects too. The main point is, your money is the subject in this sentence, so the one that is doing the main action in the sentence: “lying around”. When it becomes the object of the sentence, and is no longer doing the main action, you can use “laying” (for example: “I was laying my money on the table when I heard the phone ring.” In this sentence you are the subject doing something with the money (object)
      Hope this helped πŸ™‚

  3. What if it is a part of the body? For a Neurology class, I am writing about structures in the brain. Would I say the tentorium cerebelli was lying horizontally? Would that be a person or an object?

  4. So, did Faulkner get it wrong, then, with his book “As I Lay Dying”?

    • That’s where the fun really starts.
      Lay is the past of lying. I lie down, I am lying down, last week I lay down.
      Whereas the past of lay is laid, and the past of lie (tell an untruth) is lied!

  5. Hi Mark,
    He didn’t incorrectly use the word “lay.” Having read the book or not, ask yourself this, “What do you think the title meant to the author?”
    I don’t think he is writing about lying down in a horizontal position waiting to be overcome by death. Rather, it seems Mr. Faulkner suggests that life has brought the character, “I”, to his perceived end, and deposited him at death’s door as it will all of us. “I” in this
    case is the “object” of the incomplete “sentence” which is the “title.”
    The story is being told from the point of view of its’ end, and the “I” is more than a person, it is “a life.” The vision is extraordinarily clear. Live well, my friend. cece nan

  6. I just wanted to cross check the difference in lying and laying. I am writing a blog post and used a phrase Laying money on the table.

    Thanks πŸ™‚

  7. When you say”laying the money on the table ” it just sounds correct.

  8. My phone is lying on the table or my phone is laying on the table?
    The phone is resting and I can’t replace laying with placing.

  9. Can I say laying deep inside of you. Or is it lying deep inside of you.

  10. I made a statement saying: To release that positive spirit that’s laying deep inside of you. Should it be lying deep inside of you.

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