Which sentence is correct? Why?

  1. He was laid up with fever yesterday.

  2. He was laid down with fever yesterday.

  3. He was laid down by the malaria parasite last month.

4 Answers 4


Looking for laid in the New Oxford American Dictionary, I noted that lay [someone] low is reported between the phrases listed under lay.

lay someone low (of an illness) reduce someone to inactivity.
• bring to an end the high position or good fortune formerly enjoyed by someone: she reflected on how quickly fate can lay a person low.

Looking for laid low by in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I notice it is used also in sentences like

They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner.

In the Corpus of Contemporary American English there isn't track of the phrase laid low from.

  • 2
    This is nice information on "laid low", but what is the connection to "laid down" and "laid up", which the OP was actually asking about?
    – Roger Pate
    Sep 9, 2010 at 16:26

He was laid up with fever yesterday.

This is the correct sentence, but I can't quite explain it technically. I can't recall or construct a sentence that doesn't involve sickness. You may think of it as the fever forced him to lay down in bed and rest. (Perhaps ironically, "lay down" is right there too.)

"Laid down" has its own meaning, as in "to lay down the law" ("to establish the law, perhaps forcefully and with no room for negotiation").

"Laid up" may be related to "laid off", meaning to be fired from a job, usually due to impersonal reasons such as a company-wide downsizing.

  • "You may think of it as the fever forced him to lay down in bed and rest." -- wouldn't that be 'lie down'?
    – kajaco
    Sep 2, 2010 at 13:10
  • @kajaco: Yes, I mentioned that. "He was laid up with fever; the poor guy had to lay down in bed and rest." — Or you could just say "lay in bed and rest", or "sit in a chair"; probably a bad example.
    – Roger Pate
    Sep 2, 2010 at 13:31

A ship being "laid down" is one whose construction has recently been started. A ship might also be "laid up" meaning to be temporarily disused.

  • 1
    I believe it's the keel that is laid down as the starting point for shipbuilding.
    – moioci
    Sep 4, 2010 at 0:23
  • Also, I believe the keel of a ship is laid, not laid down.
    – Robusto
    Jul 10, 2014 at 19:41

This link says "immobilized for recuperation or repairs" (http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/laid+up).

And half of the links on the first two pages of Google seem to refer to ships (http://www.google.com/search?q="laid+up")

This link talks about "laying up" a flag, which is certainly a usage I've never come across before (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-guernsey-11096604)

To add to Roger Pate's list of phrasal verbs, there is also "laid out", which is what you get if you're laid up for too long ;)

  • And you can lose a (physical) fight and be laid out, or lay out scalpels before surgery. (I'd not encountered your use of "laid out" before.)
    – Roger Pate
    Sep 2, 2010 at 7:26
  • @Roger Pate, in fairness, wakes are not exactly common in the UK anymore (I've certainly never been to one).
    – Benjol
    Sep 6, 2010 at 5:26

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