“A long time ago, our world lay in turmoil.”

Is this correct?

I googled the usage of "lay" in that application, but didn't feel confident in the results. Is this acceptable?

  • 1
    Yes, it is correct. The past form of "lie" (recline) is "lay". Apr 15, 2016 at 16:50
  • Thanks, that's what I was after. I google "world lay in turmoil" but it showed too few results. I'm gonna go with "was".
    – San Diago
    Apr 15, 2016 at 17:06
  • 5
    @CowperKettle This is not "lie" (recline) but rather "lie" (remain). The world did not put up it's feet and relax. It is more akin to lying in wait. Either way, you are correct.
    – Lacklub
    Apr 15, 2016 at 19:26
  • @Lacklub Oh, thanks! I had received a comment saying it was not idiomatic and no one would understand, but it's been deleted now. So it is correct, but can you tell me if it's awkward? Does it sound weird to native ears?
    – San Diago
    Apr 15, 2016 at 20:33
  • 1
    It's fine and natural. (I'm a native speaker of American English.) To me, lay is better than was because to be is not an 'action verb' and has no life. Although there is not a lot of action involved with lie/lay it's still an 'action verb'. And something that's 'lying in rest' has the potential to rouse itself to other action. Apr 15, 2016 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


Your sentence

A long time ago, our world lay in turmoil.
a long time ago, our world was in a state of turmoil

is correct.

The use of


has the meaning of "lying around", if you are lying around, it is your base or usual state.

He fell alseep as he lay there.
he was lying down and fell asleep


I find the combination of lay and turmoil to be in contradiction. Lay implies little or no movement while turmoil is frenetic and uncoordinated movement.

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