EDIT: Thank you for the answers, guys! I understand now. P.S.: I also found an article that my help people with the same doubt.

In "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", I came across a sentence which I do not understand if it's correct.

So she lay on the floor and looked through the open door,

I realize you can use past and present in the same sentence, but, in this case, why would "lay" be in the present if it preceded "looked"?

If you need the context, here is the whole paragraph:

Then she saw another door, a door that was only forty centimetres high. The little gold key unlocked this door easily, but of course Alice could not get through it - she was much too big. So she lay on the floor and looked through the open door, into a beautiful garden with green trees and bright flowers.

  • 1
    Short answer: lay is not in the present tense. It's the past tense of to lie.
    – stangdon
    Jul 13, 2022 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


She lay on the floor is not the present tense - that would be she lies on the floor. Note that all the other verbs in the paragraph are in the past tense.

She lay would not be correct if it was intended for the present tense - that would be She lays [the book on the table].


"Lay" causes English people trouble too, so you're in good company.

"Lay" has two meanings - it can mean to put something in a horizontal position, or to be in a horizontal position.

So, "she lay" means she was in a horizontal position, lying down.

  • I agree but I think you should clarify this. Lay means "to be in a horizontal position" when it's the past tense. "Every night I lie in bed" -> "Last night I lay in bed".
    – stangdon
    Jul 13, 2022 at 11:43

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