Lily looked up, her eyes wide. “The Ceremony of Twelve,” she whispered in an awed voice. Even the smallest children—Lily’s age and younger—knew that it lay in the future for each of them.

It is a passage form The Giver (Lois Lowry). Looks to me as the verb lay is an incorrect form. If it is Present Tense—it should be it lays. If it is Past Tense—it should be it laid.

  • 1
    Lay is transitive, but the verb here has no direct object; it has to be lie. Jul 7, 2013 at 17:12
  • It should be lies, in standard English. The answer does a disservice by not correcting this and by using the same non-standard usage you ask about in the sentence Lowry's usage lays [sic] somewhere between definitions 4,5 and 7. It should be lies not lays. Jul 27, 2016 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


Lay is also a valid past tense of the the verb lie.

Lowry's usage lays somewhere between definitions 4,5 and 7:

4 : to have direction : extend
5 a : to occupy a certain relative place or position
b : to have a place in relation to something else
c : to have an effect through mere presence, weight, or relative position
7 a : to have place : exist

Besides the literal interpretation of the event having a position in the children's future, 5c also can be applied because the knowledge of the Ceremony in their futures weighs on their minds even now.

  • 2
    I think it's meaning 5c: to have an effect through mere presence, weight, or relative position : remorse lay heavily on him. In this case, I think the effect is the awe that is mentioned in the passage.
    – J.R.
    Jul 7, 2013 at 15:19
  • @J.R.- Ok, you talked me into it. She probably does intend that the knowledge does have an effect on the children.
    – Jim
    Jul 7, 2013 at 15:45
  • Jim, I agree that it's not exactly easy to match up a particular usage of the word lie with a particular definition listed in the dictionary. It's a very versatile word, and, despite it's simplicity, it's a bit tricky to define in plain words.
    – J.R.
    Jul 7, 2013 at 15:59
  • 1
    @J.R. I disagree. The "to have an effect" would be a use with "on"; the use with "in the future" + implies 5a, and the "for them" is the relative; their future. Jul 7, 2013 at 17:11
  • @Stoney: Well, then, at least we agree on the part about it being tricky... :^)
    – J.R.
    Jul 7, 2013 at 17:21

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