Lying in Wait

Sample 1: “Students alleged that the lecturer went to a female student’s residence to have sex with her in exchange for marks, unknowingly for him that other students had laid in wait at the place to embarrass him.”(Ekiti varsity queries lecturer over alleged sex-for-marks, Sunday Punch, June 16, 2019)

I draw readers’ attention to the word laid which occurs in the context: “other students had laid in wait.” Please note that the form laid is supposed to be a past participle, preceded as it is immediately by the form had. Is laid really a past participle?We shall be able to answer that question only if weknow the basic verb that the form laid is supposed to be past participle of.

No doubt, that verb is lie: lie in wait. The question is: Is laid the past participle of the verb lie?

We need to spend some time on the various forms available in English which obviously account for the confusion leading to the ungrammatical choices.

 

Please read the following sentences:

1) The boys told a very colourful lie against their seniors to avoid being expelled from school.

2) It is sad that the girl always lies whatever the situation involved.

3) They lie habitually against their parents.

4) Many politicians have run into serious legal and ethical problems because they lied about their age and educational qualifications.

5) Surprisingly, he admitted in court that he was always lying about his identity.

 

Those sentences illustrate the usage of the word lie. A noun, the word lie, illustrated in sentence (1), is about untruth. The basic verb form is also lie, illustrated in sentence (3). Sentence (2) contains the present simple form, changed to indicate that the subject is a third person singular noun. The past form is lied (sentence 4) and the progressive (or continuous) form is lying (sentence 5). Note again the following: a lie (noun); lie, lying (verb forms).

 

Now read the following sentences:

1) Go and lie on your back.

2) The new mother lies in bed all day.

3) Nigeria’s major problem lies in its leadership crisis.

4) We were all lying down when the police came to rescue us.

5) Sick and tired, he lay in bed throughout the day.

Please recall that the first set of sentences illustrate the usage of the word lie—which is about falsehood. The second set illustrate the same form—lie—but this time, it has nothing to do with falsehood or saying something untrue or false. Rather, the word is about putting oneself at rest on a surface. Used always as a verb, it in fact has no noun form. All the forms—lie, lies, lying—are similar to those discussed in relation to the item having to do with making a false statement. The similarities are purely accidental.

So far, we have used the word lie in two distinct senses involving their different forms. The possibility of confusion will be minimal at this point. Confusion may begin to set in when we consider the past forms of the two words.

 

Please read the following sentences:

1) To escape arrest, he not only disguised himself, he lied about his country of origin.

2) He came back from hospital at about 3 pm  and lay in bed for the rest of the day.

In the first sentence, the sense is about telling untruth or making a false statement. In the second, the sense is about putting oneself at rest on a surface. The past tense of that is lay. The distinction is not to be glossed over.

 

Again, compare the following sentences:

1) A habitual liar that he is, he lied again about his parenthood.

2) Loving and compassionate as ever, he lay beside his sick wife throughout the day.

Having seen the difference between lied and lay, we are now in a position to differentiate between lied and lain. The latter (lay and lain) are the past particles of the two verbs sharing the same form—lie.

 

Now read the following sentences:

1) How many politicians in this country have not lied at one time or the other about their educational qualifications or their states of origin or their previous activities?

2) This is the third time this malicious person has lied against me.

3) Is there anyone in this audience who has never lied in his life—said something false to wriggle himself out of an embarrassing situation, acted in such a way as to give a false impression of himself?

4) Having lain on the grass for hours, my body began to itch all over.

5) I had not lain for more than five minutes when I heard some funny noise behind the fence.

6) I had lain, not because I wanted to but because the back pain was excruciating.

Each of the first three sentences contains the form of the verb having to do with making a false statement. The past participle of that verb is lied. (Please remember that its past simple form is also lied.) Each of the last three sentences contains the form of the verb whose sense has to do with putting oneself at rest on a surface. The past participle of that verb is lain. These two forms have to be learnt carefully.

Next we want to focus attention especially on the word lay. We have seen that the form lay is the past simple form of the verb to lie, meaning to put oneself at rest on a surface. Now we are not considering lay as the past form of lie but as a substantive verb, having its own present and past forms.

 

The following sentences illustrate the usage:

1) My instruction is that you should go and lay the carpet.

2) The Doctor says we are free to lay the baby on the bed.

3) I have searched everywhere, but I still can’t lay my hands on the book.

4) To the surprise of everybody, he laid the blame on his brother.

5) They laid the matter to rest after an exhaustive and stormy discussion.

6) The former governor laid the foundation of the edifice sometime in 2010.

7) Has the foundation been laid?

8) The elders of the church have laid their hands on the man and he is now completely well.

9) The lecturer has laid emphasis on two major points.

10) I have laid the facts before you, and it is now up to you to draw your own conclusion.

 

The verb whose basic, uninflected form is lay means to put an object on a surface or on another object. The past and the past participle of that coincide in laid. Note the following points: The past tense of the verb to lie (to make an untrue statement) is lied; its past participle form is also lied. The past tense of the other verb to lie (to put oneself at rest on a surface) is lay; its past participle is lain. The past tense of the verb lay is laid; its past participle is also laid.

 

We can now have all the past forms together:

1) My brother lied against me.

2) The lively boy lay on the grass.

3) The chairman said the truth lay somewhere between the two extremes.

4) The mother laid the baby on the bed.

5) The industrious girl laid the mattress on the grass.

6) All members of the team laid the blame on the supervisor.

7) The hen laid twenty eggs.

 

We can now have all the participle forms together:

1) Many times the suspect has lied against his boss in his public testimonies.

2) I can testify that the girl has never lied before this panel.

3) If the lawyer has lied, it must be because his client has told him lies.

4) I have lain here all day reflecting on the activities of the past one week.

5) Janet has lain there idle for almost three hours now.

6) Obviously ill, the dog has lain on the carpet for hours.

7) The hen has laid many more eggs than I expected.

8) I have laid a foundation for a more advanced discussion.

9) It is immoral for a man to lie with another man’s wife.

10) He lay with her in her marital home last year.

At any rate, the participle lain should replace laid in the context under review.

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