Lay vs. Lie and Raise vs. Rise

lay or lie

Lay or Lie

Even when I taught school, I had to look up the past tense of lie because I would forget. For some people, it clicks easily. For others, it can be challenging, so I searched for ways to make understanding easier.

Lie– Means to rest or recline. Example: I lie in the grass. When the sun is shining, the brown snake lies in the grass.
Lay– Means to put or place something and requires an object. I know, you’ve forgotten what that is. Example: I (subject) lay down the book (object). The librarian always lays the book on a shelf. When using the word lay, something is laying down an object.
The previous examples are written in the present tense. When I taught English grammar, we used this to help remember the different tenses and forms of both words.


Yesterday I lay in the grass.
Today I lie in the grass.
Tomorrow I will lay in the grass.
I have lain in the grass.


Yesterday I laid the book down.
Today I lay the book down.
Tomorrow I will lay the book down.
I have laid the book down.

Most novels are written in the past tense. I think this is one of the things that confuses authors. It’s almost like saying our present tense is the past tense because as we’re relating what’s currently happening in our book (present tense), we write in past tense. Confusing, I know. That’s why we’re tempted to change our past tense to something more past tense. I lay in the grass (CORRECT) becomes I laid in the grass (INCORRECT).

Examples of the forms of the verb lay, meaning to place, with the direct object checkers: Each day I lay the checkers on the board. Yesterday I laid the checkers on the board. I have laid the checkers on the board often. I am laying the checkers on the board right now.

Examples of the forms of the verb lie, meaning to rest, which does not require a direct object. Each night I lie down. Last night I lay down. I have lain down early. I am lying down right now.

If you’re in doubt about whether to use “lay” or “lie,” try substituting a form of the verb “place.” If it makes sense, use a form of “lay.”
If I had not “laid” the book on the table, I would have gotten another. (I “placed” the book on the table.)
A light sheen of oil “lay” on the surface of the rain puddle. (The oil “rested” on the puddle. You can see how placed wouldn’t work here; thus, we use a form of lie.)

Raise or Rise

I find these verbs much easier to differentiate. Though both words mean essentially the same thing, to move upwards, one requires a direct object.

Raise requires the use of a subject that acts on an object. Something raises something else. The student raised his hand.
Rise does not need an object. Something rises on its own. Hot air rises.

Raise- Something raises something else.rise raise

The tenses and forms of raise:
I raised the shade to shut out the sun.
Can the company raise efficiency?
The government will raise the age of retirement.
Our youth group has raised money to go to summer camp.
They were raising the drawbridge over the swollen river.

Rise- Something rises on its own.

The tenses and forms of rise:
The sun rose early yesterday.
The rooster rises each day with the sun.
I will rise when I hear the rooster.
The rooster has risen before me every morning.
The rooster is always rising before me.