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Lay/lie in English phrases

In a lot of sentences, lie is used as part of the translation. This is all good, but in a lot of sentences, lay is not accepted as an alternative. As I understand it, lie is done by the subject itself, while lay is something done to the subject.

Example: I lay down a book, and then I lie down.

Where the issue on Duolingo comes up is on sentences like: "The books are lying on the table." It' won't accept "laying", even though I personally think it sounds a little more natural.

I'm bringing it up here because it would affect a lot of sentences. (ligger is used a lot), and I'm not entirely sure I'm correct in my usage, since I'm not natively English speaking either. What do you guys thing?

September 7, 2015



People say it all the time, but "The books are laying on the table" is incorrect.

"Lay" is transitive so it requires a direct object. I always remember my junior high school English teacher screeching at us "YOU LAY AN EGG! YOU LAY AN EGG!!" Unless the books are producing eggs on the table, use "lie."


We recognize this rule and try to keep it 100% grammatical in our "best translations" field, but oftentimes the "lie/lay" dichotomy is confusing even for native English speakers. Therefore, we try to make it a point to accept either where either would sound natural, but not grammatically correct, in alternative translations.

If anyone here has seen "Yellow Submarine," you'll remember this line: "Once upon a time, or maybe twice, there was an unearthly paradise called Pepperland. 80,000 leagues beneath the sea it lay, or lie. I'm not too sure."


"to lay" is to put something in a horisontal position, "to lie" is to be in a lying position or to assume such a position. It is important to know the difference between "å legge" and "å ligge" and it is hard to test whether you understand it, if we're not strict about the difference between "to lay" and "to lie".

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