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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    usage of the verb "to lean"

    Hi everyone. I'm new on this forum.
    I have a question regarding the usage of the verb "to lean".
    What's the difference between:
    She was leaning over the table when he came in.
    She was leaned/leant over the table when he came in.
    Are the two constructions legitimate?
    Thank you very much for your support.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    "She was leaning" is simple past progressive tense.
    "She was leaned" is either simple past passive or 'leaned' is used adjectivally. In this case, it's adjectival, since it's unlikely that someone else leaned her there.
    "The ladder was leaning/leaned against the wall". The latter can be either passive or adjectival. The passive meaning is that someone was leaning the ladder against the wall. The adjectival meaning is that the ladder was in the state of having been leaned against the wall.


    There's nothing special about this verb though. Many others can work this way.
    "The car was backing out of the garage; The car was backed out of the garage." (As above)
    "The knife was lying on the table (progressive); The knife was lain on the table." This is passive - the knife can't lie itself).
    "The cat was sitting/sat on the sofa". "Sat" as above, more likely passive.
    Last edited by Raymott; 20-Jul-2015 at 12:28. Reason: typo

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    #3

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    Thank you very much for your kind reply.
    Let me provide other examples so that you can understand what's puzzling me:


    1. When I came in, she was leaned over the table, looking at a picture on the wall. (she was not moving; she was bent over the table, her gaze on the picture; that was her position)
    2. When I came in, she was leaning over the table, looking at a picture on the wall. (she was moving; she, from an upright position, was leaning over the table, her gaze on the picture, in the very moment I came in and I cpuld see her moving)


    And again (in a bar):
    1. She was leaned over the counter, trying to kiss her lover when her boyfriend came in. (she was not moving; she was bent over the counter; that was her position)
    2. She was leaning over the counter, trying to kiss her lover when her boyfriend came in. (she was moving; she, from an upright position, is leaning over the counter trying to kiss her lover in the very moment her boyfriend comes in and he can see her moving)


    How would you explain the difference between these statements?

  4. Piscean's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    In my opinion, 'She was leaned/leant over the table', 'The knife was lain on the table' and (except as a passive) 'The cat was sat on the table' are not standard English. The second is simply wrong.

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    #5

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    That's right, Piscean: 'lain' is only the past participle of the intransitive 'lie'.

    'The remains had lain under the car park for centuries before being discovered.'

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    #6

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    OK, ignore the 'lying' example. It doesn't affect the point made.

  6. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    "How would you explain the difference between these statements?"
    1 and 2 mean the same thing pragmatically. 1. uses 'leaned' as an adjective; 2 expresses the same (or similar enough) meaning using the past progressive tense. In this case, it doesn't mean she was moving. It was her position that was continuous, not her movement.

    PS: In the car backing out of the garage, it does imply movement.
    "She was walking, running, breathing, talking." These imply movement.
    "She was sitting, lying, leaning." These do not imply movement.
    Last edited by Raymott; 20-Jul-2015 at 12:45.

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    #8

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    In my opinion, 'She was leaned/leant over the table', 'The knife was lain on the table' and (except as a passive) 'The cat was sat on the table' are not standard English. The second is simply wrong.
    Thank you very much for your kind reply. :)

    I'm sorry but I'm not sure I can agree with you on your comparison with "to sit". According to many scholars, "to sit" is both a state verb (i.e. to be sitting down; to be on a chair or seat, or on the ground, with the top half of your body upright and your weight resting on your buttocks) and a dynamic verb (i.e. to sit down; to take a seat; to get into a sitting position somewhere after you have been standing up). I don't see "to sit" and "to lean" as cognates.
    Moreover, the verb "to sit" can be both transitive and intransitive. So, one can "sit somebody" (i.e. to put somebody in a sitting position) as in:
    [transitive] sit somebody + adv./prep. to put somebody in a sitting position
    He lifted the child and sat her on the wall.
    She sat him down in front of the fire with a hot drink.
    http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionarie...on/english/sit

    The above examples are in the active voice, and given that the verb "to sit" is used here transitively and that any transitive verb can be turned into a passive construction, then your example "The cat was sat on the table (by the girl)." should be correct.

    As for the verb "to lean", please consider the following examples:
    1. She was leaning over the table, trying to reach for her purse, when he came in. (movement implied as when he came in, she was in the act of leaning over the table)
    2. She was leaned over the table, trying to reach for her purse, when he came in. (no movement implied as when he came in, she was already in that position)

    I undestand what you all are trying to say and I am very grateful to all of you, but please note that the verb "to lean" has, among others, the following meanings:
    1. To bend or slant away from the vertical. (as in my examples)
    2. To incline the weight of the body so as to be supported: leaning against the railing. (as in Raymott's example in post #2)


    As "to bend over" is a synonym of "to lean over", let's replace "lean over" above with "bend over":
    1. She was bending over the table, trying to reach for her purse, when he came in.
    2. She was bent over the table, trying to reach for her purse, when he came in.
    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/lean+over


    However, this is how I understand the examples I provided above. I am just trying to understand these constructions better. I might be wrong and that's why I am asking for your kind support. Thank you for your patience and help.

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    #9

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    "How would you explain the difference between these statements?"
    1 and 2 mean the same thing pragmatically. 1. uses 'leaned' as an adjective; 2 expresses the same (or similar enough) meaning using the past progressive tense. In this case, it doesn't mean she was moving. It was her position that was continuous, not her movement.

    PS: In the car backing out of the garage, it does imply movement.
    "She was walking, running, breathing, talking." These imply movement.
    "She was sitting, lying, leaning." These do not imply movement.
    I can understand that "sitting" and "lying" do not imply movement, but I don't undestand why "leaning" does not imply movement.
    Would you be so kind as to explain to me better? Thank you.
    lean
    verb (used without object), leaned or (especially British) leant; leaning.
    1. to incline or bend from a vertical position:
    She leaned out the window.
    2. to incline, as in a particular direction; slant:
    The post leans to the left. The building leaned sharply before renovation.
    4. to rest against or on something for support: to lean against a wall.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lean

  9. Raymott's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: usage of the verb "to lean"

    Quote Originally Posted by cipali View Post
    I can understand that "sitting" and "lying" do not imply movement, but I don't undestand why "leaning" does not imply movement.
    There's nothing further to understand. Simply accept that it works like 'sitting' and 'lying'.

    verb (used without object), leaned or (especially British) leant; leaning.
    2. to incline, as in a particular direction; slant:
    The post leans to the left. The building leaned sharply before renovation.
    4. to rest against or on something for support: to lean against a wall.
    You've answered your own question. Neither of the above definitions require current movement.

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