Last updated on October 16th, 2023 at 03:48 am
What’s the past tense of lying down?
Did she lie down or lay down? Did she lie about lying down? Has she lied before? This pair of verb tenses sure is a befuddling grammar puzzle to solve: to lay down vs lie down, which is correct?
Is it laid down or lied down?
Let’s first understand the meaning of the verb ‘to lie‘, since it has multiple meanings:
1. To lie can refer to someone telling a lie, as in ‘a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive’. For example, ‘I wouldn’t believe anything she says—she lies all the time.’
2. The past tense of lie here is lied: ‘you lied to me and broke my trust!’
Another definition of lie is:
3. To lie down, or “to assume a horizontal position—often used with down“. For example, ‘I’m going to go lie down for a nap’ uses correct English. The past tense of lie here is lay, ‘Yesterday, I lay in bed for an extra hour before getting up.’
The confusing part is that lay is another verb that means something similar to lie down, but is in the present tense:
- To lay something down, is a transitive verb: ‘we lay down the cement first’, or ‘lay your books down over there’. The past tense and past participle of lay is laid: ‘She had laid her books on the table before walking over to us.’
The key difference is that to lie down is intransitive (sentence objects or action-recipients are not required). A way to think about the difference is that the action stops and ends with the actor or doer itself: sleeping, for example, is intransitive. To sleep is not something that we do to other people or things, rather it’s a state of being that we go through ourselves, and so it ends once we stop inhabiting that state.
To lie is in the present tense: I lie on the couch and watch TV every evening.
Lay is the simple past: The cat lay on the windowsill, basking in the sunlight.
Lain is the past participle: Having lain awake all night, she felt exhausted the next morning.
Examples of the present tense lie in sentences
I lie on the couch and watch TV every evening.
The cat likes to lie in the sun to stay warm.
The book lies open on the desk, waiting to be read.
He lies on the bed, feeling exhausted after a long day.
The keys lie next to the door; don’t forget to pick them up.
Examples of the past tense lay in sentences
Yesterday, I lay in bed for an extra hour before getting up.
She lay down on the grass and closed her eyes, enjoying the warm sun.
The cat lay on the windowsill, basking in the sunlight.
They lay their bags on the floor and looked around the room.
When I arrived, the book lay open on the table, forgotten by its reader.
Examples of the past participle lain in sentences
He had lain on the beach all day, soaking up the sun.
The picnic blanket had lain undisturbed in the grass since morning.
By the time we arrived, the patient had already lain in bed for hours.
The forgotten treasure had lain buried deep underground for centuries.
Having lain awake all night, she felt exhausted the next morning.
The etymology of lie
From etymology online on lie (v.):
“Speak falsely, tell an untruth for the purpose of misleading,” Middle English lien, from Old English legan, ligan, earlier leogan “deceive, belie, betray”. And “rest horizontally, be in a recumbent position,” Middle English lien, from Old English licgan “be situated, have a specific position; remain; be at rest, lie down,” from Proto-Germanic *legjan
Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of lie.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/lie. Accessed 24 July, 2023.