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The place vs. Lie question typically generates a the majority of fireworks, for this reason it appears an proper one to address following the 4th of July.

You are watching: Lie in wait or lay in wait

Substituting lay (to place or arrange) because that lie (to recline or be situated) is indeed one of the most common usage errors in English. Why? Because, for one thing, the past tense of lie is lay. Because that another, lie can also mean come fib, and using the word correctly might lead to ambiguity in details instances, together here: Eric is lying about the house.

Is he lounging around, or telling a fib about the house? Context, of course, would administer the required clarity, yet perhaps to avoid potential confusion, our brain default to words that, although incorrect, leaves no doubt around the meaning. Who knows? Neurolinguistics is hardly my area of field of expertise …

Whatever the reasons for the confusion, let’s try to clear it up once and for all.

Tense Matters

Remembering which word to use is most basic with the current tense. Lay is a transitive verb, an interpretation it’s followed by a direct object (i.e., every little thing is being put or arranged, shown here in bold): Will friend lay the blanket on the bed?

Lie is intransitive, definition it doesn’t require a direct object because that the sentence to make sense: Maria lies down for 20 minute every night after work.

An easy way to remember which native to use in the current tense is this:

LAY: to PLACE (share the letter A)

LIE: come RECLINE (share the letter I)

Moving past the existing tense renders things a little much more challenging. Not just is the previous tense that lie the very same word as the existing tense lay, however both the previous tense and also past jet of lay are laid, and the existing participle that lie is the very same (i.e., lying) whether you’re talking around reclining or fibbing. What?!! Tense problem indeed.

If it is too lot to keep straight (and it’s practically impossible for most folks), the following chart might help:

Present TensePast TensePast ParticiplePresent Participle
laylaidlaid

laying

lielaylainlying

A location for Everything

If the transitive/intransitive, straight object/no object distinctions make her eyes glaze over, there’s an easier method — and also it functions for all forms of the verb. Not certain whether to usage lie or lay or part variation that either? Substitute the word place (or placed or placing, as ideal to the context). If the sentence provides sense with some kind of place, usage the corresponding type of lay. Otherwise, usage the appropriate kind of lie. Let’s try it the end (correct answers in green):

Michael lay> awake many nights worrying about his future. You wouldn’t say “Michael put awake,” for this reason the previous tense that lay (i.e., laid) is incorrect.

The treasure had actually lain> undiscovered for much more than a century. “The treasure had placed undiscovered” doesn’t make sense, therefore the previous participle that lie is correct.

I require the third book in the stack lying> on the table. The stack isn’t placing top top the table, so the existing participle that lie is correct.

Julia <laid/lay> her briefcase on she desk. Julia could definitely place she briefcase on she desk, so the previous tense of lay is correct.

The floor troops <lay/laid> in waiting for practically 20 hours prior to the foe appeared. You wouldn’t say they placed in waiting, therefore the previous tense of lie is correct.

See more: How Many Different Groups Of 48 Cars Can Be Formed From 50 Cars?

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Let us know in the comments listed below if you uncover these advice useful, and also whether you recognize of any kind of other top for separating lie and lay.