5 English Phrasal Verbs with LAY

Today’s lesson was inspired by Instagram, specifically by a post I did last week about the verbs LIE and LAY.

I wasn’t surprised when my Insta students confused these two words, because even native English speakers mix them up! The most common confusion is using “lay” when you should use “lie” ((*NOTE: YES! “lie” does mean to say something that isn’t true; however, it has another meaning which is to be in a reclined position))

So “I was lying on the couch and watching TV.” is a grammatically correct sentence, but “I was laying on the couch and watching TV.” is not. The easiest way to remember the difference is that the verb “lie” does not take an object (I need to lie down.) and the verb “lay” takes an object (I need to lay my baby down in her crib.)


But as the title suggests, we aren’t going to focus on these verbs today because today it is all about PHRASAL VERBS. WOO! Who doesn’t love English phrasal verbs? They are so common in English, especially in conversations, that I often find myself struggling when speaking in Portuguese because I want to use a phrasal verb.

Below is a 5 Minute English video for this lesson, so I recommend that you first watch the video, take notes, and then come back to this post to read on for further details and examples. The video covers 5 main phrasal verbs, but know that there is more. You can check your favorite dictionary, or visit the blog later and see what I post next! 🙂

Video Review

There are many ways to learn phrasal verbs! You can learn phrasal verbs by theme, like with this post about summertime, the music festival Coachella or chores around the house. Or you can do what we’re doing today, focusing on the main verb. In the past I’ve taught you phrasal verbs with fall, and as you know, today is with the main verb LAY.

Let’s do this….


to lay down (something) means to clearly state a rule or something important.
EXAMPLE: -My boss laid down new guidelines at work today.
-The teacher is laying down some serious new rules in class.

This is closely connected with the expression: TO LAY DOWN THE LAW which means to tell someone firmly what they cannot do (what they’re not allowed to do).
EXAMPLE: -My boss was laying down the law at work today.
-The new teacher really laid down the law, she does not want students misbehaving.

to lay down (something) also means to stop using something
EXAMPLE: -After painting all day, I finally laid down my brushes and had dinner.



to lay into someone means to criticize someone harshly, or to attack them.
EXAMPLE: -Some of the staff broke the new office rules so our boss really laid into them.
-The teacher was laying into the students when I arrived late to class. She sounded very angry.

This is an example of a phrasal verb that is inseparable, which means you cannot separate the main verb and the particle. The object must follow the particle, otherwise it sounds and is incorrect.


to lay (someone) off means to stop employing someone, or to let them go, usually because there is not enough work or money in a company/business.
EXAMPLE: -After the budget cuts, the company had to lay 100 people off.
-After the budget cuts, 100 people had to be laid off
*Notice the difference in the active sentence and the passive sentences here

This phrasal verb is an example of a phrasal verb that is separable, which means you can put the object in between the main verb and the particle.

*Another important note about the verb “to lay off” is that it’s very different than the verb “to fire” To fire someone means to no longer employ them, but because of something they did wrong. When someone is laid off, it’s often out of their control and not because of their actions.

to lay off (something) means to stop using something. ((This example is inseparable, so don’t put the object in the middle of the verb and particle))
EXAMPLE: -I have been eating so much chocolate, I really need to lay off it!
-I think John drinks too much soda. He should lay off Pepsi and Coke for a while.

“Lay off!” as an interjection or imperative (command) is used to tell someone to stop bothering you. So when your little brother is being annoying, you can tell him: “Lay off!” or “Lay off me!”


to lay over means to make a stop in the middle of the journey, usually at an airport during a flight
EXAMPLE: -My trip laid over in Miami on my way to Brazil
*Note that the noun “layover” also exists, which is the stop in between a journey (EXAMPLE: I had a layover in Miami). Both the verb and the noun are widely used.

to lay (someone) over means to cause someone to stop in the middle of the journey. This one is most often used passively (be + laid + over) without the “by + agent”.
EXAMPLE: -I was laid over in Miami on my way to Brazil.
-I try never to fly HocusPocus Airlines, because I am always laid over during their flights for the longest time!


to lay (someone) up or to lay up (someone) means to cause someone to stay at home because of being ill or an injury. (*this is also used passively most often)
EXAMPLE: -My surgery last year really laid me up (ACTIVE) or – I was laid up by my surgery last year and stayed in bed for 6 weeks. (PASSIVE)
-The flu lays people up every year, especially during the winter months.


I hope this lesson doesn’t lay you up, and make you feel too overwhelmed. There is a lot of information here, so it’s okay if you need some time to read it again and write down more examples. Don’t rush to learn, take your time to perfect it! You can always practice by writing your own sentences in the comments below, or you can try answering some of these questions:

  1. Where was the last place you were laid over?
  2. Have you ever laid into someone for something?
  3. Does your boss like to lay down the law in the office?
  4. When was the last time you were laid up?
  5. Is there anything you know you should lay off?

You can answer these questions in the comments for feedback and corrections, and I wish you a great day!

Happy Studying! ♥

Please take a moment and share this post with a friend, colleague, teacher, or student. I thank you greatly!





  1. Umair on April 21, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    It was a good, informative article. Thank you

  2. […] phrasal verbs with lay […]

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