Both verbs are irregular. However, "lay" is a transitive
verb and "lie" is intransitive. This means that
"lay" needs a direct object and "lie"
"Lay" (lay/laid/laid) means to put something
down on a surface in a horizontal position.
Example: She laid the puppy on the grass. (the puppy is the
"Lie" (lie/lay/lain) also means to place
oneself in a horizontal position on a surface (usually accompanied
by the word “down") or describes the location of something,
usually referring to geography.
Example: "Lie down on the bed and I will tell you a story."
(no direct object)
Example: "Madrid lies in the middle of Spain."
"Lie" (lie/lied/lied) also means to not tell
the truth. However, in this case, it is a regular verb.
Example: "She lied to me about the price of the hotel."
How do you learn a language? (¿Como se aprende un idioma?) Actividades para aprender inglés basados en un extracto de un artículo de Wikibooks por el profesor de inglés Mike Stanley: verbs, Other, Cloze, Quiz.
Make and Do
"Make" and "Do" are often confused by
Spanish speakers because they only have one word for both
concepts. As a general rule, "Make" and "Do"
have the following uses:
"Make" – Creating, Constructing,
We use "make" to describe the action of creating
something, usually resulting in a new end product:
"make a cup of coffee"
"make a plan"
"make a cake"
"Do" – Activities, Non-defined actions
We use "do" to describe the action of carrying out
daily activities or jobs. Normally these actions do not result
in any new end product, yet often alter the state of an already
"do homework" (the homework existed before doing
it, you did it, and now it is different)
"do the housework" (the house was messy, you did
the housework, and now the house is clean)
"do the shopping" (the items were in the supermarket,
I bought them and carried them home, now they are in my
house – I did the shopping.)
When we want to talk about an action without specifically
naming the action itself, we use "do." We usually
use it with "nothing", "anything", "something",
A: "What are you doing?"
B: "I'm not doing anything right now. Why, do you want
to do something?
A: "No, there’s really nothing to do."
This, of course, results in a very ambiguous conversation!
Both "make" and "do" are also used in
fixed expressions which often don't follow any guidelines.
Here are some common ones:
"Make the bed" (this refers to pulling the sheets
and blankets up to make the bed look nice and neat)
"Make a decision"
"Make an effort"
"Make a call"
"Make a mess"
"Do good /bad"
"Do the washing up"
"Do a favor"
"Do the right thing"
"Do a good/bad job"
"See" is what we do when we open
our eyes. It is really involuntary.
Example: "She saw a ray of light shoot out of the sky."
"Watch" and "Look
at" are both voluntary actions that we use our
eyes to do.
We "watch" things that are moving or happening
usually for a longer period of time (like the TV, a movie,
an accident, people walk by, the sunset, etc.). "Watch"
can also mean to observe something or guard something. In
this case it can be something static, but the action implies
keeping an eye on something for the purpose of protecting
it or observing it for change.
Example: "I don’t watch more than 1 hour of TV per day."
"Susie, could you watch my daughter for a moment, I have
to go to the bathroom."
"We watched the plants grow for 3 weeks."
We "look at" things that are static or that don't
move, and it can be for a long time or for an instant (a picture,
a tree, a person's face, the scenery, etc.)
Example: "I looked at her and we both started laughing."
"She looked at all the photos and then chose the best
Here is an example comparing the three:
"I saw the television." (my eyes were open, and
the television was in my line of vision, so I saw it.)
"I watched the television." (there was some interesting
program on the television so I sat there for an hour and watched
"I looked at the television." (I voluntarily moved
my eyes in the direction of the television because there was
something of interest there for me to see.)
In general, "so" is used to modify an adjective
or adverb and "such" is used to modify a noun (even
if that noun is described by other adjectives). "So"
and "Such" often exaggerate the concept of "very."
They both correspond to the word "tan"
"I am so tired!" (¡Estoy tan cansada!) vs.
"I am very tired." (Estoy muy cansada.)
"She is such a good friend." (Ella es tan buena
amiga.) vs. "She is a very good friend." (Ella es
muy buena amiga.)
The same works for "too" and "too much"
/ "too many." "Too" is used to modify
an adjective or adverb and "too much/many" is used
to modify nouns. They both correspond to "demasiado"
"She is too nice."
"I have too much sugar in my coffee." (uncountable)
"There are too many people in my house." (countable)
"Used to doing" is used with the word "to
be" and means "to be accustomed to something."
"Used to" is followed by a noun, or a verb in "–ing"
Examples: "I have lived in Madrid for 12 years. Now I
am used to the city life." ("I am accustomed to
the city life.")
"I am used to living in the city."
"Used to do/have/etc" is used to talk about something
repeated in the past or something you did in the past and
no longer do.
Example: "I used to play sports, but now I do nothing."
"When I was a child, I used to go to the park every afternoon
with my grandmother."
You can also use the word "would" to substitute
"used to" in the second example.
"When I was a child, I would go to the park every afternoon
with my grandmother."
* NOTE: We do not use "use to" in the present to
describe things that we do on a regular basis, or habitually.
We use the word "usually" in this case.
Example: "I usually get up at 7:00 am every day."
NOT: "I use to get up at 7:00 am every day."
(In Spanish "suelo" corresponds to "I
usually" and "solia" corresponds to
"I used to". In other words, "I use to"
does NOT correspond to "suelo" in Spanish)
When talking about a duration of time there is a difference
between "for" and "during" in English.
(In Spanish you usually use the word "durante"
but you can’t always substitute "durante"
"For" is used to talk about a defined
duration of time:
"I went to school for 4 years."
"She was traveling for 3 days."
NOT: She was traveling during 3 days.
"During" is used to describe when
something occurs, defining the timeframe with an event or
period of time ("during the concert," "during
the summer," "during the trip," "during
the game," etc.), rather than with "time" words
(hours, minutes, days, etc.):
"Three people called me during the concert."
(Timeframe: the concert / What occurred?: Three people called
In relative clauses, we can often use "what" or
"that" as the linking word. When do we use "what"
instead of "that"?
When you can substitute "the thing that" or "the
things that" in place of the linking word, then you use
"what." In Spanish, you use "lo/la los/las
que" or the word "qué" with
an accent, not "que" without.
Example: "We have what we need." ("Tenemos
lo que necesitamos.")
"We have the things that we need."
"I don’t know what you want." ("No sé
* Note: "What" substitutes the object or thing
you are talking about, so make sure you don't mention both
in one sentence:
Do not say: "We have everything what we need."