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My colleagues and I came upon a test question which reads "The patient lay ____ in bed." The choices for the blank include "motionless" and "motionlessly." As the subjective complement of the sentence, "motionless" is obviously the answer.

However, we began to wonder if the word "motionlessly" could actually be used to modify any verb, since very few verbs are really motionless. Besides, such verbs as "lie," "sit," or "stand," always go with "motionless." We couldn't think of any verb that can go with the adverb form.

After googling, we got the sentence, "he saw the black-haired man waiting MOTIONLESSLY behind the opposite side of the platform." Shouldn't we use objective complement "motionless" here in the sentence?

Thanks in advance.
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OED says;

motionlessly
adv. [motionless (a.) + -ly] without motion, stilly; in a motionless manner.

1887 W. James in Pop. Sci. Monthly June 170 It is the very same instinct which leads a boy playing 'I spy' to hold his very breath when the seeker is near, and which makes the beast of prey motionlessly lie in wait for his victim.

paco
Yes, it does exist, along with "motionlessness".
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Now I'm really confused. Is "lie + S.C." a misconception of mine? Or maybe there is no difference between "lie motionless" and "lie motionlessly"?
"lay motionlessly" sounds weird to me, I'd choose "lay motionless"
The verb is a stative one, and the adjective looks better.
On the other hand, you can DO something "motionlessly", eg read, watch etc
Hello Glee and Ms Tarte

"Lie" has two senses/usages;
(1) get oneself into a flat or horizontal posture. [action verb]
[In this sense the verb can be in the construct : S+V+adverb]
(2) remain in a certain state/posture. [stative verb]
[In this sense the verb can be in the construct : S+V+adjective]

The difference is too subtle for us ESL to get.
But I'm wondering:
How can you get yourself into a posture 'motionlessly'?
Sometimes I feel English is an illogical language.

paco
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I agree, but even if we consider this meaning of "lie": assume a reclining position; "lie down on the bed until you feel better" , it's hard to do it "motionlessly".
A person with psychokinetic powers might motionlessly move objects.

Off to assume a reclining position now.

MrP
I see. Really grateful.

I guess then we can make sentences like:
"He hid motionlessly in the dark, awaiting his would-be victim," or
"Motionlessly he fixed his eyes on his prey before launching an attack."

The adverb "motionlessly" is not as rarely used as I had thought.
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