If something is “laid out,” it’s either arranged or sprawled out. “Layed out” is either a misspelling or a nonstandard variant of “laid out.”
What is the difference between “laid out” and “layed out”?
If your friend is sunbathing by the pool, are they “laid out” or “layed out”? As it turns out, both answers are incorrect.
“Laid out” is the past tense form of “lay out,” which describes an arrangement or placements of objects. “Layed out” is not an actual phrase because “layed” isn’t a word. Of course, there’s also the problem of lay vs. lie, which is a whole thing unto itself…
Lay vs. lie
“Laid out” and “layed out” are commonly confused spellings for the verb phrase “lay out,” which uses the base form of the verb lay.
According to Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU):
- “To lay” (transitive) is “to set an object down or arrange.”
- “To lie” (intransitive) is “to recline or be situated.”
Verb forms of lay vs. lie
|Verb||Present tense||Past tense||Past participle||Present participle|
How to use lay in a sentence?
Since lay (leɪ) is a transitive verb, the verb must take a direct object within active or passive sentences:
- “I lay out the books.” (present tense)
- “I laid out the books.” (past tense)
- “I had laid out the books.” (past participle)
- “I am laying out the books.” (present participle)
How to use lie in a sentence?
Lie is an intransitive verb, so it needs to occur within active sentences:
- “You can lie out by the pool.” (present tense)
- “Why didn’t you lay out by the pool?” (past tense)
- “She had just lain out next to the pool.” (past participle)
- “I saw them lying out by the pool.” (present participle)
Does it really matter if we use lie for lay?
Using the verb lay in place of lie is extremely common in everyday English (but technically “nonstandard”). If grammar is particularly important (such as within formal speech or writing), it’s best to learn the difference now.
As noted by GMEU:
“… Some commentators believe that people make this mistake more often than any other in the English language. Others claim that it’s no longer a mistake–– or even that it never was. But make no mistake: using these verbs correctly is a mark of refinement” (Garner 553).
Even Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary throws a few punches into the mix:
“Much of the problem lies in the confusing similarity of the principal parts of the two words. …Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do.”
Ok. Point taken.
The bottom line:
“Laid” is a popular variant spelling of the past tense of “lay,” but it’s never the “standard” verb to use for describing rest or sleeping arrangements (especially without a direct object).
The one exception involves arranging dead or unconscious bodies (hear us out on that one). In this case, you can “lay someone out” for burial or sleep (the “someone” is the direct object), but if the “someone” is asleep or drunk, the phrase is still informal.
What does laid out mean?
“Laid out” is the past tense form of the phrasal verb “lay out” (using the irregular verb lay and the adverb out). As noted by the Cambridge Dictionary and Lexico, to “lay out something” or “lay something out” means:
- To construct, design, or arrange according to plan.
- To plan something by showing its parts fit together.
- To arrange material for print and publication.
- To explain something clearly and carefully.
- (informal) To spend a large sum of money.
- To spread something to its fullest extent (especially so it’s noticeable).
Likewise, if “lay out” is synonymous with “lay someone out” or “lay out someone,” it means:
- To prepare a corpse for burial or a funeral.
- (informal) To knock someone unconscious.
- “We laid out our plans for the fishing voyage ahead of time.”
- “Have you laid out the new carpet at the plaza?”
- “I saw the folders laid out in neat piles.”
- “It’s not like they laid out grounds for punishment.”
- “The editor laid out the advertisement section for the design crew.”
- “The family laid her out to rest the next day.”
- “He finally laid his opponent out with a weapon.”
1. Arranged, arrayed, classified, codified, drawn up, marshaled, ordered, organized, ranged, systematized.
2. Displayed, disported, exhibited, exposed, flashed, flaunted, paraded, produced, showed, sported, strutted, unveiled.
3. Arranged, blueprinted, budgeted, calculated, charted, choreographed, designed, framed, mapped out, organized, planned, prepared, set out.
4. Arranged, displayed, distributed, exhibited, lined up, ordered, set out, spread out.
5. Contributed, devoted, disbursed, donated, expended, forked over, gave, invested, paid, put in, shelled out, spent.
8. Fell, flatten, floor, knock out, knock unconscious, lash, prostrate.
When to use layout instead of lay out?
Whenever you’re describing something that has been arranged or designed (“laid out”), the correct word to use is “layout” (noun).
- “The new app layout looks terrible.”
- “Did you approve the government buildings’ new layouts?”
- “We love the new layout of the house.”
- “The disclaimer layout for bets and wagers is confusing.”
Published examples of laid out
“In a series of tweets from its NBA Official account Sunday afternoon, the league laid out the various ways it has changed the rules this offseason…” — ESPN
“A 10-foot by 10-foot square was laid out between the new Camp Cajon monument and the 1917 Santa Fe and Salt Lake monument.” — San Bernardino Sun
“She bought a dozen slabs of organic, French and Canadian butter, laid them out on her counter top and pressed down on them with her index finger.” — The New York Times
“Biden laid out a similar federal policy Thursday and urged governors to offer $100 payments to people who get their first vaccine doses.” – CNBC
“She perhaps got more satisfaction when they faced off in a celebrity boxing match. Bertha laid him out flat.” ––SF Gate
“The obvious solution, then, is best laid out in Billie Eilish’s “Lost Cause” music video: Gather your hot friends, dress in your best sweats (save the going-out dresses for later), and go crazy.” — Harper’s Bazaar
Additional reading for laid out vs. layed out
If you enjoy learning about English grammar, be sure to check out similar lessons by The Word Counter, such as:
- Clear or more clear?
- Incase or in case?
- Maybe vs. may be?
- To much or too much?
- Setup vs. set up?
- Skillset vs. skill set?
Test how well you understand the difference between layed out and laid out with the following multiple-choice questions.
- True or false?: The traditional spelling of “lay out” is “layout.”
- ___________ is the correct past tense of lie (with the overall senses of ‘to rest in horizontal position’).
- Which of the following are past tense forms of regular verbs?
d. None of the above (they are all adj.)
- Choose the correct spelling: “The toddler ________ out a series of blocks.”
- It is standard English to use lay without a direct object, and for the intransitive senses of lie, when using __________.
a. The infinitive form of lay
b. The infinitive form of lie
c. The past tense form of lay
d. None of the above
- Which of the following examples is incorrect?
a. “She lain out her wager yesterday.”
b. “Lay out your photographs and artwork.”
c. “I’ll lay out my share of the profits.”
d. “I plan to lie out in the shade.”
- Bilefsky, D. “Canadians Try to Solve the Enigma of Hard Butter.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 25 Feb 2021.
- Bontemps, T. “Unnatural shot motion rules being enforced in Las Vegas Summer League.” ESPN, espn.com, 8 Aug 2021.
- Dowd, K. “One of San Francisco’s first celebrities was a man you paid to beat with a baseball bat.” SF Gate, sfgate.com, 23 Apr 2021.
- Garner, B. “Lay; lie. A. The Distinction.”Garner’s Modern American Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 553.
- Gonzales, E. “Billie Eilish’s New Video Is How I Want to Hang with All My Vaccinated Friends This Summer.” Harper’s Bazaar, harpersbazaar.com, 3 Jun 2021.
- Landis, M. “Camp Cajon table is finally back home where it belongs in the Cajon Pass.” San Bernardino Sun, sbsun.com, 12 July 2021.
- “Lay out something.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
- “Lay out.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
- “Lie.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
- Mendez, R. “U.S. Covid vaccination rates rise as Americans in hard-hit states rush to get shots amid delta fears.” CNBC, cnbc.com, 30 Jul 2021.