“Lie” in the present does not have an object.
This will sound strange, but strange is sometimes easier to remember: “l” and “i” are parallel in the word “lie,” meaning they both point in the same direction. To “lie down” is to become parallel to the ground. “Lie” does not take an object. It is the entire action.
But “lay” is the past tense of “lie.”
Another suggestion: We lie down to rest. “Rest” and “lie” both have an “e.”
“Lay” has an object, unless it is in the past.
A chicken will lay an egg. (“Lay” needs something to be put down.)
The problem here is in the various tenses.
Lie (rest, recline, often with “down”
Lay (needs something to be put somewhere)
- Lie = present
- Lay = past
- Lain = past participle
- have / had lain
- Lying = present participle
- is / was lying
- Lay = present
- Laid = past
- Laid = past participle
- have / had laid
- Laying = present participle
- is / was laying
So the present of “lay” is the past of “lie”. Is that confusing enough?
Add a completely different meaning to “lie” as in “tell an untruth,” but that’s not usually a spelling problem.
- Nancy is so tired she will lie down without changing into her pajamas.
- (“lie” = put oneself horizontal)
- She didn’t even say her prayers, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
- (“lay” = present tense, has the object “me”)
- Yesterday she lay on the couch with the TV on. Today she will lie on the floor.
- (“lay” = past tense of “lie” = put oneself horizontal)
- Last week they laid 300 bricks for the museum. Today they will lay more.
- (“laid” = past tense of “lay,” direct object = “bricks”)