Davyne DeSye: Grammar Tips
"Lay" is a transitive verb, while "lie" is intransitive. "Lay" requires a direct object, while "lie" does not.
For example (lay): The sparrow lays an egg. In this example, "egg" is the direct object -- the object that the sparrow is laying.
For example (lie): The cat lies down. In this example, there is no direct object. Lie is often followed by a preposition or prepositional phrase that indicates when, where, or in what direction, the action took place.
More examples: I lay the book on the table. I lie down on the floor.
In the first of these two examples, "book" is the direct object and indicates what object I am acting upon. In the second example, there is no direct object. (In both examples the prepositional phrases merely indicate where.)
If all that makes sense, here's the tricky part! The past tense of "lie" is "lay." For ease of use, here are the two verbs and their conjugations.
Lie -- lay -- lain -- lying
Lay -- laid -- laid -- laying
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