Do you lay or lie down?
The key factor in which to use is whether there’s a direct object. Much of the confusion stems from the fact that ‘lay’ is the past tense of ‘lie.’
The words “lay” and “lie” may be the least favorite words of marketers who work for mattress firms or furniture stores. I don’t work in either of those, but I will go to exceedingly great lengths to find another word just so that I don’t have to endure the “lay” versus “lie” debate.
Sometimes the unavoidable term is “lay” or “lie.” I recognize the fact and respond accordingly; I go to the writing rules and reexamine when to use “lay” or “lie.”
The word “lay” means “put” or “place.” Its meaning necessitates a direct object. The word is, in that way, akin to the word “set.” One always “sets” a direct object, a particular thing, be it the table or a stack of books on said table. Similarly, a person would “lay” a tablecloth on the table or, if on a picnic, under a tree in the shade.
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