Posted by: Idioma Extra | July 29, 2010

Commonly Confused Words: Rise/Raise and Lie/Lay

Commonly confused words: Rise/Raise and Lie/Lay

Although these two pairs of words have similar meaning, grammatically, they are used differently. The key to understanding how to use them correctly is to understand the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Without getting into too much detail, a transitive verb takes an object. For example,

I put the cell phone on the table.

An intransitive verb does not take an object. For example,

Sam talks all the time.

In this case, there is no object receiving the action.


“Rise” means “to go up” or “get into an upright position.” “Rise” is an intransitive verb and does not take an object. Look at the examples:

Everyone in the court needs to rise.

The sun rises at different times depending on the season.

On the other hand, “raise” is a transitive verb, meaning that it takes an object. “Raise” can have two meanings; one, is to “lift up,” and the second is “to grow or care for” like children or plants. Look at the following examples:

We raised our glasses and offered a toast.

My aunt raised me until I was 17 years old.

I could tell she was surprised when she raised her eyes.


These two words are distinguished in the same way as “rise” and “raise.” In this set of words, “lie” is the intransitive verb, meaning it does not take an object. It means, “to recline” or “be located.” Here are some examples:

The snake was lying in the grass.

When I sleep, I prefer to lie on my right side.

The restaurant lies along the river.

“Lay” is a transitive verb and does require an object, meaning it is an action, like “to put.” Look at these examples:

I please lay your belongings in the basket.

I always have to lay my shoes outside the house before entering.

One confusing aspect between these two verbs is the similar conjugation between the two. Look at the conjugation of the two verbs:

Present tense Past tense Past participle Present participle
Lie Lie/lies Lay* Lain Lying
Lay Lay/lays* Laid Laid laying

* Notice the past tense of “lie” and the present tense of “lay” are the same.

1. The cat was (lying/laying) on the couch when I got home.
2. I need to (rise/raise) the garage door by hand because the remote doesn’t work.
3. The officer told me to (lie/lay) my hands on the hood of the car.
4. I always (rise/raise) out of bed at 6am.
5. The flowers were (laid/lain) at the alter.
6. The water in the river is (raising/rising) quickly.
7. My uncle (lay/laid) in bed all day yesterday due to a cold.
8. Yesterday, the sun (raised/rose) exactly at 5:53am.
9. In golf, you have to play the ball where it (lies/lays).
10. I saw a ghost (rising/raising) out of the trees.

Answer key to last week’s Grammar Tidbit:

1. He threatened _to___ quit his job if he didn’t get a raise.
2. It’s difficult to find good friends that you can rely _on___.
3. Last night I dreamed _of__ traveling to outer space.
4. Lately, I’m so fed up _with___ all the slow lines at the super market.
5. He’ always bragging _about___ how much money he makes.
6. Don’t hesitate _to__ call me if you have any problems.
7. It took me 3 hours __to__ get from here to the beach.
8. Most people dress _in___ black for a funeral.
9. All the children were making fun __of__ him.


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