Lie and lay are a pair of words that constantly confuse writers and speakers, particularly when it comes to phrases like laid off or layed off. Let’s figure out which one is correct once and for all!
Laid off or Layed off
In this case, if you lost a job and wanted to know whether you should write laid off or layed off, the correct phrase is laid off. In fact, layed is not a correct spelling of any form of the words lie (to recline your body) or lay (to place an object), or, for that matter, lie (to speak a mistruth).
Lie vs Lay
To understand the difference between the words lie and lay, let’s look at the principle parts of each word:
Present tense Past Past Participle Present Participle
Lay (to place an object) laid (had) laid (was) laying
Lie (to recline your body) lay (had) lain (was) lying
Principle parts are the different forms that the words can take in different situations. As you can see, layed is not one of these principle parts for either word. Layed is often used in place of the past participle form of lay, which is laid. They sound the same, but are spelled differently.
When to Use Each Word
Lie and lay are often confused because their principle parts look alike. However, they are completely different words with different uses.
Here’s a breakdown of each word and when it is appropriate.
When you use the word lay, you should be referring to action on an object. You can lay a baby down, lay books on the counter, or lay your worries aside.
You may notice a common theme in these examples. Lay takes a direct object, so no matter what form of the word is being used (lay, laid, or laying), there should be something that the action is being done to. In other words, there should be an answer to the question, “Lay what?”
- Just lay your bag down here. (Lay what? Bag)
- I laid my keys down somewhere, but now I can’t find them. (Laid what? Keys)
- To make her morning routine easier, Ellen has laid out her clothes for tomorrow. (Has laid what? Clothes)
- Johnson was just laying his computer aside for the day when a work issue arose. (Was laying what? Computer)
Lie, when you are talking about being in a horizontal position, is one of the most confused English words. Most of us get at least one form of this word wrong.
Lie does not take a direct object because it refers to the person’s actual body, not a separate object. Therefore, you will not be able to answer the question “Lie what?”
- After a long, hard day, all I want to do is lie down for a little while.
- I didn’t feel well, so I laid in the bed all day.
- Because Sarah is on vacation, she has lain on the beach for days, without a care in the world.
- I was lying in bed when I realized my alarm didn’t go off this morning.
Why It Matters
If they sound the same, you may be wondering why it matters whether you use laid off or layed off. In any situation where you would be writing the phrase, like on a resume, it would be important to know the correct spelling, even if you were saying it correctly.
To avoid the phrase laid off, you could use any of the following phrases:
- made redundant
- let go