Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Unit 1: English In A Minute
Give us a minute and we'll give you English

Select a unit

  1. 1 English In A Minute
  2. 2 English In A Minute

Session 33

Welcome to English In A Minute. Give us a minute and we'll give you a hot tip about English. Grammar, vocabulary... there's so much to learn - and all taught by your favourite BBC Learning English staff!

Activity 1

Lay vs lie

Do you have a minute to spare to learn some English? Sian's going to show you the differences between lay and lie! Give us 60 seconds and we'll give you the English!

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

I'm Sian from BBC Learning English, and today we're going to look at the difference between lay and lie

So lay always has an object, and it means 'put something or someone down carefully' – normally in a flat position. When I eat I lay a cloth on the table. You can lay a baby in a cot. The past tense is laid, but careful with the spelling. I laid all my cards on the table.

The verb lie doesn't have an object and it means that you are 'in a flat position' or you 'put yourself in a flat position' - so you move on your own. Tonight I want to lie on the sofa and watch a film. But be careful. Now, the past of lie is lay. Yesterday I lay on the beach and read my book.


Did you like that? Why not try these?

EIAM Teaser 6minvocab_8_easily_confused_words.jpg 6_yt_cover_wild_goose.jpg______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lay vs lie

Lay means 'put something down carefully'. Its verb forms are lay, laid, laid. It always has an object.

  • When I eat I lay a cloth on the table.
  • I laid the baby in her cot.
  • She hasn't laid the duvet on the bed.

means 'be in a flat position' or 'put yourself in a flat position. Its verb forms are lie, lay, lain. It doesn't require an object.

  • Tonight I want to lie on the sofa and watch a film.
  • Yesterday Sian lay on the beach and read a book.
  • I've never lain on a futon before.


To do

Try our quiz to see how well you've learned today's language. 

English In A Minute Quiz

3 Questions

Test your understanding of this lesson with our quiz!

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y


You can download a PDF document for this episode here.


We hope you enjoyed English in a Minute. You can find more episodes here