I have a sentence:

However, until then it is obvious that there lie intermediate “targets” — foo, bar and baz.

Is the use of lie in this way correct? The targets still exist, so I don’t want the past tense.

I don’t think that lies sounds correct, because there’s are multiple targets and I'd say the dogs lie rather than the dogs lies.

  • Do you need to use lie? Can't you just say there are intermediate targets? – Sam Dec 6 '12 at 2:25
  • @Sam Would it be grammatically incorrect to use lie, or just superfluous? – simont Dec 6 '12 at 2:33
  • You have to use a plural verb with a plural subject. – tchrist Dec 6 '12 at 2:37
  • It's correct, it's just a bit clunky. For instance, you don't say where they are lying. It might help to clean up the sentence if you specify that. Like, some intermediate targets lie between you and your goal or in your path, lie intermediate targets. Without more context, it's hard to know. – Sam Dec 6 '12 at 2:44

Lie here is a figurative use of a spatial expression. You should use it only if you at some point before or within this sentence define, however vaguely, the “space” in which your targets lie. For instance:

It is obvious, however, that intermediate “targets” —foo, bar, baz— lie on the path toward that ultimate goal.


It is obvious, however, that before we reach that goal we must pass intermediate “targets” — foo, bar and baz.

If you're not comfortable spatializing your disquisition, I'd stick as Sam suggested with a simple be rather than lie.

And, yes, plural subjects take the form without -s.

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