Is "lay down" a phrasal verb in the question:

Why don't you lay down for a while and get some rest?

or just a Verb + preposition? I checked the Longman "Phrasal Verbs" dictionary, there's a section for "lay down" but the definitions didn't have anything to do with resting. What I found in the dictionary:


  • to officially establish a rule or way of doing something.
  • to stop fighting, or agree to give up your weapons.
  • to tell someone very firmly what they should or should not do, especially in a way that annoys or upsets them
  • to establish something that will develop in the future

I'm just wondering if "lay down" really acts as a phrasal verb in the question I posted or not. Any suggestions are appreciated!

  • 1
    I think it's up to the dictionary whether a phrase or a sense of a phrase is considered a phrasal verb or not. (But, yes, I think it's common to consider a verbal phrase whose sum is not its whole a phrasal one.) BTW, "Many grammars use the term ‘phrasal verb’ for some or all of the expressions we have been considering in §§7.3–4. We have not adopted this term. It is thoroughly misleading. It’s not the whole expressions fall out, tie in with, etc., that are verbs; it’s just the lexemes fall, tie, etc." -- A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum. – Damkerng T. Dec 16 '16 at 13:31
  • 3
    As @DamkerngT. says, 'phrasal verb' is not a term with a fixed meaning. In any case, you should be aware that you are not going to find this in any dictionary under lay, which is in standard use a transitive verb but is here employed as a non-standard colloquial variant of intransitive lie. Look up lie down, not lay down. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 16 '16 at 13:44

Why don't you lay down for a while and get some rest?

Lay down is technically a phrasal verb but I think its meaning is not very different from lay. It can carry the implication of resting, but the literal meaning is to make something orient in a flat, possibly "resting" manner. You might lay something like a tool vertically against a wall, but if you laid it down, then you specifically made it lay flat on the floor. So the directional meaning of down is used in this, but lay down can be used figuratively as well.

You can lay down things like blankets and sheets or other large flat things, and in this vein, the well-known saying/structure lay down the law or lay down {something that is like rules or law} is using lay down figuratively - I guess one would be "flattening" people with the law. This sense doesn't work with anything but something like law or rules.

You can lay down things like a foundation (think a foundation to a house that's a large, flat structure) or something that will "grow".

Since lay down implies rest, things like lay down your weapons serve as a figurative use to rest your weapons. But you can't say something like "The armies laid down" without the listener/reader thinking the armies stopped what they were doing and took a nap - you have to say "The armies laid down their weapons."


I think it is functioning as a phrasal verb. Often the added word in a phrasal verb bears some corresponding meaning to what the phrasal verb itself means. Although often the meaning of the phrasal verb couldn't be guessed from its auxilliary word.

Lay down (make yourself horizontal)

Lay in (stay in bed later than usual)

Stand up (make yourself vertical)

Stand in (take the place of somebody else)

You can see the examples with "in", do have some meaning of literally putting or keeping yourself in somewhere, but the real meaning is not completely gained from just looking at the two separate words.

  • BTW, it should really be "lie down" - you lie, but you lay something else - but you do hear it used that way a lot in casual conversation. – stangdon Dec 16 '16 at 15:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.