Confusing Verbs

Some verbs cause confusion when using in sentences. Here are some examples. 


The verb 'hang' has two meanings: (i) to attach something at the top so that the lower part is free and loose and (ii) to kill somebody by tying a rope around their neck and allowing them to drop. Based on the meaning, the past forms and the past participle forms change in such a confusing way that people often make mistakes in using them. To get rid of your confusion, first read the table below and then the example sentences under the table.

Meaningto attach something at the top so that the lower part is free and loose to kill somebody by tying a rope around their neck and allowing them to drop
Past Formhunghanged
Past Participlehunghanged
Present Participlehanginghanging
Transitive/ IntransitiveTransitiveTransitive
ObjectObject is a thing.Object is a person.

Hang, Hung, Hung

Active: She hangs her photo on the wall. 
Passive: Her photo is hung on the wall.

Hang, Hanged, Hanged

Active: They hanged the criminal for murder.
Passive: The criminal was hanged for murder.

2. LIE, or LAY?

The difference between lie and lay can be confusing, but here is a simple explanation:

'Lay' means to place something down flat, while 'lie' means to be in a flat position on a surface.

They lie on the floor. 
They lay their little baby between them. 

Notice that 'Lay' is transitive and requires an object to act upon, and 'lie' is intransitive, which has no object. 

Correct: I lay the book on the table.
Incorrect:  The book lays on the table.
Correct:  The book lies on the table.
Incorrect: I lie the book on the table. 

Another difference is that the past tense of 'lay' is 'laid', but the past tense of 'lie' is 'lay'. This can make it more confusing, but you can remember it by using this mnemonic:

“You lie down, but you lay something down”. 

Read in the table for more information: 

Meaningto say something that you know is not trueto be in a horizontal or resting position so that you are not standing or sitting to put something down in a horizontal position
Past Formliedlaylaid
Past Participleliedlainlaid
Present Participlelyinglyinglaying
Transitive/ IntransitiveIntransitiveIntransitiveTransitive
Need Object?No objectNo object
Direct object

Lie, Lied, Lied

 Active: The camera cannot lie
Passive: No passive because it is an intransitive verb. 

Lie, Lay, Lain

Active: The boy lay on the floor and slept. 
Passive: No passive because it is an intransitive verb. 

Lay, Laid, Laid

Active: She laid the baby down gently on the bed.
Passive: The foundation of the building was laid last year. 

Recourses Used

(i) Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, AS Hornby

(ii) Cliffs TOEFL