I know there are multiple threads regarding proper use of "lay" and "lie", but I'm hoping to get some additional insight to distinguish their usage when used in figurative form. Which of the following examples would be correct?

1) ...as the water lay silent and reflects on her face.

2) ...as the water lie silent and reflects on her face.

3) ...as the water lays silent and reflects on her face.

4) ...as the water lies silent and reflects on her face.

  • I would not say the water lies silent. Since we speak of still waters: the waters were still.
    – Lambie
    Feb 10, 2020 at 22:46
  • A persons lies silent
    – Lambie
    Feb 10, 2020 at 22:51
  • 2
    @Lambie Oh, I don't know about that. I usually lie out loud.
    – user105719
    Feb 10, 2020 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


Only the fourth example is correct, with both singular verbs in the present tense.

The first example has a conflict of tenses, with the first verb past and the second present.

The second example requires a singular verb (lies) after water rather than the plural (lie).

The third example wrongly uses lay instead of lies. Water does not lay. Either people lay down on the beds (past tense) or tilers lay tiles (present tense).

Water does not lay anything although you might use the verb intransitively to say something like the water lay (past tense) silent in the creek that night.


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