Does a parked car

lie in the street


sit in the street


stand in the street


Is there a rule to determine which verb to use with a specific noun, when the noun describes a thing – like a ball – which cannot have different positions, contrary to a human being for instance?

  • I think the one example is not very helpful. However, by comparing cars, ships, balls, pyramids, poles, plates, books, bicycles, computers, couches, beds, chairs, rockets, blankets etc. there might pop up some rule. – Řídící Jun 3 '16 at 20:16
  • @Keepthesemind Would it be fair to say that for inanimate objects "lying" and "standing" are forms of sitting? – Lumberjack Jun 3 '16 at 20:43
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    In general, "lie" would not be used. "Sit" implies that the vehicle is parked in a normal fashion, while "stand" implies that the vehicle is sitting ready for immediate use (possibly with the engine running). To a large extent these "rules" are idiomatic, though, and not traceable to some sort of "logic". – Hot Licks Jun 3 '16 at 22:49
  • Parked cars park. Nobody I know ever says "My car lies/sits/stands in the street." They say "My car is parked in the street", or "parked on 3rd avenue". – user175542 Jun 8 '16 at 20:32

A parked car usually stands.

The only time it lies is if it is not in an upright position and is e.g. lying in a ditch, or lying on its side/upside down in the road.

As for sitting. how exactly would it do that?

Edit One commenter has produced an example, from American fiction, of a car sitting. My own belief is that this would be rare in Britain, but I am ready to be proved wrong. However I have now changed my assertion from a car always stands to a car usually stands.

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  • 1
    Why standing instead of sitting? – Blubberguy22 Jun 3 '16 at 20:17
  • This only answers the title question, not the (other) "body question". – Řídící Jun 3 '16 at 20:22
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    In the Northeast US (and possibly elsewhere) "standing" has a very specific meaning. A car is standing when it is stopped for the purposes of loading or unloading passengers or cargo. If a car is stopped and no loading or unloading is happening, the car is said to be "parked." – Lumberjack Jun 3 '16 at 20:33
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    I agree with the bit about "lying" but inanimate things "sit" all the time. Sitting doesn't mean you're on your butt in a chair necessarily. It just means that you are located in a place for a time. You are SITuated if you will. That is what I always thought at least. – Lumberjack Jun 3 '16 at 20:38
  • @Lumberjack- and I think it needs to be running with the driver behind the wheel. – Jim Jun 3 '16 at 21:12

In the example above, the word "parked" describes the position along with what kind of car. A speeding car would not be standing, lying, sitting or parking. If I had to use this in a sentence I would re-word to " A car was parked in the street" and not apply sitting, lying or standing. As for a "ball" you would not say "A bouncing ball was lying in the street". But you could say "A ball was lying in the street".

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None of these sound natural, either the verb or the preposition.

Here are examples of idiomatic (natural sounding) English:

The car is parked.

The car is parked in the driveway.

The car is parked on the street.

The car is parked next to the fire hydrant.

The car is standing in the 'no standing' zone.

The parked car is in the driveway.

The speeding car is on the street.

That other car is parked on the shoulder of the highway.

The van is at the stoplight right now.

The rule for the verb for car is 'stand' or 'park', whatever the adjective modifying car is. 'Lying' (or 'laying') and 'sitting' don't work.

The rule for the preposition depends on the object of the preposition (and intention/restrictions on the object).

There are lots of options among these but they can be restricted by pragmatics of the physical situation. A ball can lie on the field or be in the air or next to the wall but not at the wall.

Prepositions are difficult in English because they are so slippery, with multiple overlapping meanings. You say 'on the ceiling' if something is pressed up against the ceiling, even though literally 'on' seems to imply above. The lesson is to not be too literal.

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    How about "I can see his car sitting in the driveway"? That would be perfectly idiomatic in the US. – Hot Licks Jun 3 '16 at 22:52
  • @HotLicks That sounds fine but is not the first thing I would come up with. "The car is in the street" is off, or rather fits the situation where the asphalt has melted and the car has sunk into the street. – Mitch Jun 4 '16 at 13:03

'Stands' would be normal, but any of the others can also be used.

'Sits' gets fairly frequent usage. I'm not sure if 'sits' indicates anything different from 'stands' here.

'Lies' would tend to indicate something the matter with the car. A wreck of a car would lie on the street, and maybe lesser broken down cars.

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  • This only answers the title question, not the (other) "body question". – Řídící Jun 3 '16 at 20:23

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