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What is the Past Tense of Lay

The word “lay” has two main definitions, both of which pertain to putting things down on the ground. In English, among both native and second-language speakers, the word “lay” is often mistakenly used interchangeably with “lie” but the two are actually different. The past tense of “lay” is “laid.”

So whether you want to lay down, your chickens are laying some eggs, or you have some bricks or floorboards to lay, we will explain how to say these all like it happened yesterday!

In the sections below, we will focus on the more common definitions.

What is the past tense of “lay”?

Lay (verb):

(1) Put down gently or carefully

(2) Set in position for use

  • Infinitive           –           to lay
  • Simple Past    –           laid
  • Past Participle –           laid

Conjugation Table of “lay”

We have a table below to show your the different ways of conjugating the verb ‘lay’

 PronounInfinitiveSimple PastPresent PerfectPresent Continuous
Ilaylaidhave laidam laying
You (sing.)laylaidhave laidare laying
He/She/Itlayslaidhas laidis laying
Welaylaidhave laidare laying
You (pl.)laylaidhave laidare laying
Theylaylaidhave laidare laying
What is the Past Tense of Lay

Example Sentences of “lay”

(1) Put down gently or carefully

  • She carefully laid the baby down in its crib
  • He told the gang members to lay down their weapons
  • They laid each delicate porcelain plate on the large dining table

(2) Set in position for use

  • He lays carpet for a living
  • They laid tiles in the bathroom for several hours
  • Laying flagstones will make a nice garden path

Focus: Past Tense of Lay

Below are some more examples of how we can use “lay” in its past tense form. Examples below include the following forms of “lay.”

  • Simple past
  • Present perfect
  • Past continuous
  • Past perfect

Simple Past of “lay”

  • The stone tablet was so heavy, they laid it on the ground before trying to move it again
  • We decided to use the expensive china, each piece of which we laid carefully on the dinner table
  • After they laid the new carpet, the living room looked much more modern

Present Perfect of “lay”

  • They have laid down their weapons and surrendered
  • He has laid the tiles on the bathroom floor, and they look great!
  • Why have you laid the stone tablet on the floor? It’ll be hard to pick it up again

Past Continuous of “lay”

  • He was laying new turf in the backyard when he heard the front doorbell
  • They were laying the bookcase down to rest, but suddenly lost their grip and dropped it
  • City workers were laying new water pipes all day yesterday

Past Perfect of “lay”

  • He had laid bathroom tiles many times before, so he had the kind of experience that we were looking for
  • They had just laid all the new gas pipes along the main avenue, but shortly after a serious leak was discovered
  • We had laid the plates and cutlery on the table, but then suddenly realized that we had forgotten to buy any wine for the dinner

Understanding the Verb “Lay”

Originating from Old English “lecgan,” “lay” typically refers to placing something down in a horizontal position. It’s often confused with “lie,” which means to be in a resting position.

Phrasal Verbs with “Lay”

  1. Lay out: To arrange or display something.
    • She laid out her clothes for the next day.
    • They laid out the plans for the new park.
  2. Lay off: To temporarily or permanently end the employment of someone.
    • Due to budget cuts, the company had to lay off several employees.
    • The factory laid off a hundred workers.
  3. Lay into: To criticize or attack someone verbally.
    • He laid into me for being late again.
    • She laid into the team for their poor performance.

Common Mistakes with “Lay”

  • Incorrect: She has layed down for a nap.
  • Correct: She has laid down for a nap.
  • Incorrect: He lay the book on the table last night.
  • Correct: He laid the book on the table last night.
What is the Past Tense of Lay

You can check other past tense words by clicking on the links in the table below.

Table 2: Table of Links for irregular Past Tense Verbs

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We also have articles and worksheets which we will link examples of below, and if you need more you can try the search box.


Past Tense Verbs, especially when they are irregular can be tricky for all levels of English learner. The need to remember rather than apply rules ( mostly) provides a challenge to even Native english speakers in fact.

So hopefully the collection of tables and advice we are providing in this cluster of articles on past tense can serve and a quick resource for you if you need a little refresher on your past tense forms.

We also have a full list of irregular verbs from A – Z on the site which you can access from the link here.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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