If you're confused over whether to use lay
the "transitive vs. intransitive verb"
rule seems difficult to understand, the following examples and explanations should
In formal writing, people have a
tendency to use lay
when in fact lie
should be substituted. "The patient should
lay on his back" is a common lay/lie
error. Someone can lay
a patient on his back, but the patient himself
does NOT lay there. He has to
there. Why? Because the present
tense definition of lie
is to recline, and the present tense definition
of lay is to put or
The sentence "Please lay
the check on the table" is correct, and
most writers have no problem with that.
But too many people also believe that "The
check is laying on the table" is
correct as well. It's NOT correct;
is the proper verb for that sentence.