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The sentence is:

Inside the hollowed interior laid a small package wrapped in wax paper

It is a SAT question and you have to decide whether laid is correct or not. The options where:

A) no change B) lying C) lay D) lain

None of these seem correct. I would have chosen "lied" if I wasn't given options. The answer is C. Could someone tell me why C is the answer?

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    The verb you want is lie, not lay. However, the homonym lay also happens to be the past tense of lie. Sheer coincidence. – Tushar Raj Jan 5 '17 at 10:51
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    Why would you have chosen lied? If it's because you want the past tense of lie then (because it's irregular) a dictionary would almost certainly tell you what it should be [lay, as @Tushar has indicated]. – Andrew Leach Jan 5 '17 at 10:55
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    Note that lied is the past tense of a completely different sense of lie (as in, telling lies). – Tushar Raj Jan 5 '17 at 10:59
  • Bear in mind that lie is an intransitive verb. – haha Jan 5 '17 at 12:08
  • The answer is c) LAY, and lay is the past tense of lie. – Lambie Jan 5 '17 at 17:10
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The question is meant to put you in a quandary, so it is not surprising that it does. Your "competence" would be attested by the quandary being of infinitesimal duration.

As noted by others, lie is irregular, with a preterite form lay. The rest of Tushar's comment*) is misleading: there is little sheer coincidence involved, since the two verbs are so closely linked and since there is little combinatorial space with such a short word for homonymy.

The case of lie and lay can be perhaps considered a classic on this site: I suggest this old post (of a moderator), where you can learn about the history of the verbs, and on a metalevel, about the process of language change that you are involved in.


*) The verb you want is lie, not lay. However, the homonym lay also happens to be the past tense of lie. Sheer coincidence.

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  • +1, I think you should include this line from Colin's answer to make your case stronger: "lay" is a causitive verb formed from "lie" – Tushar Raj Jan 5 '17 at 12:20
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Inside the hollowed interior lay a small package wrapped in wax paper.

The boy lay on the bed and dreamed away the afternoon. [preterit, simple past] The boy was lying on the bed, dreaming away the afternoon.

Most days, the cat lies on the windowsill to look out the window. He has lain in the sun so long this morning that his mind is fuzzy.

lie, lay, lain = to be in a prone position on a surface in a prone or supine position. Either a person, animal, object or an alien [that's a joke]. Yes, it is intransitive.

VERSUS: lay, laid, laid, a transitive verb meaning to place something somewhere

She lay her head on the pillow and went to sleep. We laid our coats on the bed and went into the dining room. The chickens have laid a lot of eggs this autumn. [idiomatic expression: to lay eggs]

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