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"She lay the gift bas­ket on the cof­fee table" is correct.

Would "She laid the gift bas­ket on the cof­fee table" be correct? Or do we need to have the word "had" before "laid," as in "She HAD laid the gift bas­ket on the cof­fee table"?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, Rory Alsop, FumbleFingers, Ronan, user66974 Jul 14 '14 at 14:16

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Two verbs: lie, lay, lain ... and ... lay, laid, laid.

The first is used is intransitive and is used of one's self. The second is transitive and is used with an object.

She lay down | She lay on the floor -- past tense. She laid it down | She laid it on the floor - past tense.

She had lain down | She had lain on the floor -- past perfect tense. She had laid it down | She had laid it on the floor - past perfect tense.

Thus, "She lay the gift basket ..." is incorrect in any context. And, "She had laid the gift basket ..." is correct only in reference to another action, which this preceded.

The ordinary usage, in describing what happened, would be to say, "She laid the gift basket on the coffee table."

To complicate all this, there is another verb, "lay," which is American slang I won't go into.

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Use "had" to indicate that it happened before something else in the past. For example, "She had laid it down before I saw it." If you don't need to show that it happened before something else In the past, you don't need to ( and shouldn't) use "had."

  • Is "She LAY the gift basket on the coffee table" incorrect, then? – joeblow Jul 14 '14 at 3:59
  • @joeblow That's just a little bit weird in literature. We almost never write in the present tense; even if the action is "right now", it's almost always in the immediate past except in dialogue (and then we'll put the dialogue into the past with something like he said). – bye Jul 14 '14 at 5:21

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