Learning a language’s grammatical concepts is arguably one of the most difficult things about learning any language. For example, for anyone who has ever learned a foreign language before, you know how difficult it is to memorize verb conjugations, different forms of pronouns, lists of noun rules, and various other grammar rules. And if you have ever learned more than one other language, it can be very easy to get them confused.
Welcome to English grammar, a language that is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master due to the complexity of its rules and the fact that it actually breaks its own rules more often than not. The exceptions often outnumber the rules, and it can be very hard to keep track of what is right and what is wrong, especially if you find yourself working with several different groups of people with their own colloquialisms or slangs. The English language lends itself to several common grammar mistakes that beginners and experienced English speakers alike make often.
In this article, let’s explore the infinitive verb “to lie,” learn its proper use, how to use its past tense verb forms, look for its synonyms, and learn its etymology and context.
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To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “to lie” can be defined as, “to be or to stay at rest in a horizontal position, be prostrate,” but can also mean “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” Some secondary definitions include “to assume a horizontal position,” “to be in a helpless or defenseless state,” and “to have direction.”
In all, there are twenty-two separate definitions of this intransitive verb (meaning it does not need to be accompanied by a direct object like a transitive verb would), and they all have their own context and rules. The present tense of this verb is lie, and it is a regular verb.
Part of what makes English such a difficult language to master is that no matter where you look, there are rules, and then there are exceptions to those rules. For example, the standard rule for making the past tense in English is to add “-d” or “-ed” to a verb to give it the past tense. For example, the verb cook becomes cooked, and the verb bake becomes baked. In both situations, you either add the “-ed” or the “-d” suffix, and the word is past tense. With irregular verbs, things don’t work this way.
Creating the past tense of lie can be complicated, too, because of its close relation in spelling and definition to the word “to lay.” However, the correct past tense of the verb lie is actually just “lied,” e.g., he lied to get out of his punishment, or he lied down.
What Is the Past Tense of Lie as in to Recline?
The correct past tense of lie (as in reclining) in any context is simply “lied.” As mentioned above, this is often confusing because the words “to lie” and “to lay” are often used interchangeably, and the past tense of lay is laid. This leads to confusion with the use of the word “lie” and its past tense, but at the end of the day, just remember that lie and lied are not irregular like lay and laid.
If you wanted to use the past participle form of lie, you’d say “lain,” while the present participle of lie is lying.
Is It Lie or Lay?
Lay vs. lie are often used in place of one another. However, this leads to a common mistake. Lay is defined specifically as laying something down, such as on the ground, and has to do with a physical object. Lying down, on the other hand, deals specifically with assuming a horizontal position.
So if you are feeling sick and you need to go to bed, you would say that you are going to lie down, not lay down.
The History and Origin of the Word
One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from. A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English. According to EtymOnline.com, the word lie comes from the Old English word “ligan” which is translated as “to speak falsely or tell an untruth.”
Unlike many words in modern English that come from ancient languages like Latin or Greek, many verbs actually come from Old English or Germanic languages during the beginning of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Examples of the Word in Context
Another great way to learn how to use a word is to explore the word being used correctly. Either reading the word in its proper context or hearing someone else use it in conversation. Here are some common examples of the word “to lie” (and its past tense) in common context:
“Did he just lie to you about where he was all day?”
“The dog likes to lie down after he runs around for hours.”
“I am sorry you are not feeling well. Have you lied down yet? That sometimes helps.”
Synonyms for Lie
Finally, to really solidify a word into your vocabulary, it is useful to explore words with similar or same definitions. The more words you know that can fit into a specific context, the easier it will be to remember which ones to use. Here are some synonyms for the verb “to lie”:
To recline is a synonym that usually means to lie back but not fully
To lean is a synonym that also means to lie back but usually at an angle
To sprawl out is a synonym that means to lie around as spread out as possible
By reaching the end of this article, you should be prepared to use the word “lie” in any conversation. Just know your audience, and you will do fine. Good luck!
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.