'to lay down' and to 'to lie down'

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New Member
Dutch - Belgium
What is the difference between 'to lay down' and 'to lie down'? Is 'To lay down' specifically for objects?

  • Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    The difference is that "to lie" is intransitive and "to lay" is transitive.
    I lay the book on the table. I laid the book on the table yesterday. I have laid many books on many tables in the past.

    I lie on the sofa. I lay on the sofa yesterday. I have lain on many sofas in the past.

    The use of "down" makes no difference to the meaning and use of the two verbs.

    ED. Yes, I forgot to mention: there are many threads on this subject. Thanks for the reminder, Dimcl.


    Senior Member
    Hi all,
    The difference is that "to lie" is intransitive and "to lay" is transitive.
    Consider the following piece of lyrics:

    Happy new year
    May we all have our hopes, our will to try
    If we don't we might as well lay down and die
    You and I

    That's from "Happy New Year", by ABBA

    Why did they use "lay" here, not "lie"?


    Senior Member
    American English
    Depending upon your degree of pedantry, the answer is:
    1) The members of ABBA were not native English speakers.
    2) Songs don't really need to obey the rules of grammar.
    3) 84.683% of English speakers don't bother with the "lie/lay" distinction.


    Senior Member
    The term "lay down" is used improperly in the case of the ABBA song. But keep in mind that the term "lay down and die" has also become a frequently used term and could even be considered an idiom nowadays to mean "give up."

    Remember in songs, the songwriter also must often bend phrases and words in a way perhaps not always proper in grammar but more "conversational" to convey a certain feel or mood.

    In the example you give, the word "lay" is also an "inside rhyme" with the previous line's "May". This helps to break up the frequent rhyming sounds of try,might, die and I, so "lay" would be the better choice regarding writing the song.

    So its more about taking poetic license with songwriting and not so much about being grammatically correct.

    << Deleted. Please read Rule 6 >>
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    British English
    There's no need to keep on re-opening old threads to say the same things over and over again. Just look here Lay/Lie, for a rhyme to remind you which to use.

    I think I shall close this one.
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