Good afternoon, I'm not quite sure which verb should follow:

The fault laid or lied in the [technical stuff].

Basically, I'm just trying to express where the fault was found.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, anongoodnurse, Helmar, herisson, choster Nov 8 '16 at 23:58

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From Google dictionary:

Lie ¹


verb: lie; 3rd person present: lies; past tense: lay; gerund or present participle: lying; past participle: lain

  1. be, remain, or be kept in a specified state.

"the abbey lies in ruins today"

  • (of something abstract) reside or be found.

"the solution lies in a return to traditional values"

From your description, this is the version of the verb "lie" that you're looking for, with your "the fault" mirroring the usage given of "the solution" in the dictionary.

It tells us that the past tense for this is "lay".

This is backed up by usage in the same context as yours from a Google search:

  • Specifications for AWS testing were "ambiguous and obscure" and the "fault lay in the system operated by GWT"Driver went through warning signals, The Guardian
  • The appeal judge, sitting with Lord Justice Longmore, said the company's fault lay in a "failure to ascertain its new employee's competenceJudge cuts gas blast firm's fine, BBC News
  • Doesn't this mean that the question is general reference? For some reason, it's been answered before on ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '16 at 23:22
  • Thank you Anotherdave, the clear and concise answer I was after! – Anthony Nov 9 '16 at 7:44

The past tense of "to lie" is "lay".

It's difficult to find an explicit statement to this effect in the usual sources, but oxforddictionaries.com includes these example phrases in its definition for "to lie":

it was the loss of human life that lay heavy on him

the candlelit chapel where the king's body lay in state


The lie/lay confusion arises largely because the past tense of the former is also the present tense of the latter.

In short, to "lie" means to be in/get into a flat position. It is an intransitive verb. The past tense is "lay" and the past participle is "lain".

To lie also means to tell a deliberate untruth. Past tense and past participle "lied".

To "lay" means to put something down, as in tiles or a book on the table. It is a transitive verb. The past tense is "laid" and so is the past participle.

You will find this explained at more length at: (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/lay-or-lie)

  • 2
    This is good, but you might want to make the answer to which of lie/lay/laid/lain/lied is appropriate for the question a bit more explicit.... – Hellion Nov 8 '16 at 22:13
  • Yes, please :-) – Anthony Nov 8 '16 at 22:30
  • Or you might want to just close-vote as a duplicate. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 8 '16 at 23:21

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