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  1. #1
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default past form of the verbs "lie / lay"

    Dear teachers,

    Would you please explain to me the choice of the tense (simple past) of the verb to LIE (?) in the following text?

    We scraped at the earth at the base of the frame and came upon others bones, they 1 were laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) in a pattern that twisted in under the frame posts, and after a while Chris said, “I think it's a man. Maybe the miners buried people alive under their buildings for luck, like the Melanesians.” But the skeleton was too large to be human, the bones of the legs were exceptionally long and as we uncovered more of it, we could see that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, but much longer and more powerful. Then I said, “It's a moa.” We both stopped digging and sat back from the skeleton. “We shouldn't move it,” I said and Chris said, “But who is there to show it to ?” We sat and looked at the bones for a while, a little afraid aware that the great bird had remained undisturbed for a thousand years. Then Chris said that we should collect the bones and take them to the house where we could piece the skeleton together again, it would be safer there though safer against what he did not say.

    In the days that followed we 2 laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) the bones in a shed beside the house and began to fit them together. I had made a sketch of how they 3 lay (simple past of LIE ? if yes, why not the past perfect ?) and Chris had glued a piece of paper to each bone and numbered it according to my drawing the way we imagined scientists did. Because the skeleton had been twisted where it 4 lay (simple past of LIE ?) in the earth our attempt to arrange it in its true shape was based partly on how we imagined the bird must once have looked. We worked on the moa late into the evenings the two of us crouched in the shed under an oil lamp with the bones scattered around us arranging adjusting, fitting and matching the pieces we had taken from the earth, until we were light-headed with the effort of it, and still the great bird 5 lay (simple past of LIE ?) stubbornly misshapen on the floor, less clear now in its form than when we had uncovered it first at the head of the valley.

    Thank you for your help.
    Hela

  2. #2
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    Default Re: past form of the verbs "lie / lay"

    We scraped at the earth at the base of the frame and came upon others bones, they 1 were laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) in a pattern . . . .
    The above is correct. It means, arranged or placed horizontally on a surface.

    In the days that followed we 2 laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) the bones in a shed
    Correct. Same meaning as the one above.

    I had made a sketch of how they 3 lay (simple past of LIE ? if yes, why not the past perfect ?)
    "lay" is correct. It's the present. It expresses a fact. How the bones are situated, positioned.

    Because the skeleton had been twisted where it 4 lay (simple past of LIE ?) in the earth . . . .
    Correct. Same as the one above. It's position, where it lay.

    and still the great bird 5 lay (simple past of LIE ?) stubbornly misshapen on the floor,
    Present. Fact. The bird is positioned, like so, on the floor.

  3. #3
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: past form of the verbs "lie / lay"

    Do you mean that "lay" in 3, 4 and 5 are all in the present tense ?

    All the best,
    Hela

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: past form of the verbs "lie / lay"

    To me, they are the past, reflecting a past fact about their position.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: past form of the verbs "lie / lay"

    Quote Originally Posted by hela
    Do you mean that "lay" in 3, 4 and 5 are all in the present tense ?

    All the best,
    Hela
    tdol has it! Obviously I need a refresher course on lay versus lie.

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