So I am reading the second series of the famous Harry Potter and right now I am going through the tenth chapter "The Rogue Bludger". The second section of this chapter starts with the following sentence:

Harry woke early on Saturday morning and lay for a while thinking about the coming Quidditch match.

With the current understanding of the English that I have, there seems to be some problem with the use of the verb lay in this sentence. Looking at the tense in which the situation is being described (Harry woke), we should have had laid instead of lay. Even if I assume that author, for some strange reason, wanted to use present tense in the second part of the sentence, she should have rathor used lays insted of lay. Am I missing something terrible because of my little knowledge of English? Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


Harry woke early on Saturday morning and lay for a while thinking about the coming Quidditch match.

The sentence is correct. Both woke and lay are simple past tense.

wake - present tense
woke - simple past

lie - present tense
lay - simple past

Do not confuse this lay (past tene of lie) with another verb lay, which is in the present tense, and which in standard English is a transitive verb (I lay the box on the table.)

  • 1
    I didn't know this. Thank you very much!
    – Peaceful
    Jul 27, 2016 at 16:43
  • 1
    It is an easy mistake, and one that native speakers make all the time. Although, historically speaking, lay and lie have been used and mixed and confused all the time. But if you want to know which verb is used in the sentence, it is lie (past tense: lay). In some dialects, lay is used as synonym for present tense lie. Jul 27, 2016 at 16:47
  • @AlanCarmack It gets even more confusing and complicated when the object of "lay" is a person. cf. the previously common Christian bedtime prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep..." Jul 27, 2016 at 19:39
  • Yeah @P.E.Dant I just throw me in with all the objects. And that prayer helps me remember the rule for present tense lay. Jul 28, 2016 at 2:14

Examples using to lie (rest), lie (fib), and lay (put)

Present tense:
I lie on the couch when I am tired (not lay)
I lie to my wife constantly
I lay the book on the table

Past tense:
I lay on the couch yesterday because of a headache (not laid)
I lied to my wife about my not having an affair
I laid the book on the table yesterday

Past participle:
I have lain on the couch many times (not have laid)
I have lied to my bookie many times about paying her back
I have laid this and many other books on the table

I hope the examples help.

  • 1
    Gary, welcome to ELL and thank you for taking the time to answer. Your answer would be even more helpful if you were to reference the sentence cited by the questioner and explain how the examples you provide bear on the question. Jul 27, 2016 at 19:43

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