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Which one is more grammatically correct?

  • I lay on the bed.
  • I lay in the bed.
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Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/72831/…. –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 10:13
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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, tchrist, kiamlaluno, Andrew Leach, Hellion May 16 '13 at 14:59

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4 Answers

Both are grammatically correct. Which you should prefer depends on what you mean.

Lay on the bed would mean laying on top of it; on top of all the blankets, eiderdowns and spreads or whatever that the bed is covered by. If the person were tucked up underneath all these things they'd be generally said to be in the bed.

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I don't think we'd generally say a person "lay in the bed" the way we say they "lay on the bed". We'd say they "lay in bed". If it were a sock, though, that was lost in the sheets, then "in the bed" would sound more natural. –  tylerharms May 15 '13 at 9:01
    
But as an answer to the [ungrammatical] question "Did you lay on the floor?" "No, I laid in the bed" would be fine. –  Andrew Leach May 15 '13 at 9:08
    
I agree with Brian's answer as a generality, although, as @Andrew mentioned, there might be an exception or two. For example, if I was feeling under the weather on Sunday, so I rested, and on Monday, a coworker asked, "How was your weekend?" I might say "I laid in bed all day yesterday" – irrespective of whether I was under or on top of the blankets. –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 10:18
    
J.R. No, it's "I lay [past tense of lie] in bed." Unless you were having a really fun day. –  gmcgath May 15 '13 at 11:38
    
@gmcgath: Okay, so I screwed up the verb :^) but my point about the preposition choice remains. –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 14:37
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You could say I lay on the bed if it happened in the past and you did not get under the covers on it. You could say I lay in the bed if it happened in the past and you did get under the covers on it.

See these http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/lie_1?q=lie and http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/lie_1

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lay in = lay inside
lay on = lay on top

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 lay in

:To store for future use: lay in supplies for an Arctic winter.

 lay on

:To apply (something) by or as if by spreading onto a flat surface: laid on a thick Southern accent.

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That usage of lay in has nothing to do with the phrase lay in bed. –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 10:15
    
@J.R....... can you better explain the difference.?? –  Ravindra Shekhawat May 15 '13 at 10:21
    
Brian already nailed it in his answer, I think. If I am laying in bed, I'm not storing up supplies for anything. –  J.R. May 15 '13 at 14:35
    
As you say, lay in has a meaning different from the verb lay (or lie here). It is said to be a 'multi-word verb' - acting as if it were a single-word (ie 'normal') verb. Thus: Mike Yarwood regularly impersonated Harold Wilson. = Mike Yarwood regularly took off Harold Wilson.. We lay in supplies every fall. uses lay in as a MWV. However, We lay in bed. uses the single-word verb lay (past tense of lie in this sense) and the prepositional phrase in bed. Compare We lay there., We lie here. and We lay under the sheets.. –  Edwin Ashworth May 17 '13 at 9:19
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