Dear teachers,

Would you please explain to me the choice of the tense (simple past) of the verb to LIE (?) in the following text?

We scraped at the earth at the base of the frame and came upon others bones, they 1 were laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) in a pattern that twisted in under the frame posts, and after a while Chris said, “I think it's a man. Maybe the miners buried people alive under their buildings for luck, like the Melanesians.” But the skeleton was too large to be human, the bones of the legs were exceptionally long and as we uncovered more of it, we could see that the creature had a thin, curved neck like a swan, but much longer and more powerful. Then I said, “It's a moa.” We both stopped digging and sat back from the skeleton. “We shouldn't move it,” I said and Chris said, “But who is there to show it to ?” We sat and looked at the bones for a while, a little afraid aware that the great bird had remained undisturbed for a thousand years. Then Chris said that we should collect the bones and take them to the house where we could piece the skeleton together again, it would be safer there though safer against what he did not say.

In the days that followed we 2 laid out (past form of LAY OUT ?) the bones in a shed beside the house and began to fit them together. I had made a sketch of how they 3 lay (simple past of LIE ? If yes, why not the past perfect ?) and Chris had glued a piece of paper to each bone and numbered it according to my drawing the way we imagined scientists did. Because the skeleton had been twisted where it 4 lay (simple past of LIE ?) in the earth our attempt to arrange it in its true shape was based partly on how we imagined the bird must once have looked. We worked on the moa late into the evenings the two of us crouched in the shed under an oil lamp with the bones scattered around us arranging adjusting, fitting and matching the pieces we had taken from the earth, until we were light-headed with the effort of it, and still the great bird 5 lay (simple past of LIE ?) stubbornly misshapen on the floor, less clear now in its form than when we had uncovered it first at the head of the valley.

Thank you for your help.
Hello Hella

I agree with you in every lie/lay matter.
intransitive : LIE - LAY - LAIN
transitive : LAY - LAID - LAID
[1] They were laid out (passive/past form of LAY OUT)
[2] We laid out the bone (active/past form of LAY OUT)
[3] how they lay (active/past of LIE)
[4] where it lay in (active/past of LIE)
[5] the bird lay mis-shapen on the floor. (active/past of LIE)
Here "mis-shapen" is working as a 'subject-oriented adjunctive adejective'.

As for your question about the tense of [3], I don't understand rather why the author used the past perfect tense for the main clauses. If I were the author I would write "I made a sketch" instead of "I had made a sketch".

...simple past of LIE ? If yes, why not the past perfect?...

'Sketching how they lay' preceded 'beginning to fit them together', so 'I had made a sketch' is past perfect.

However, by the time we reach 'how they lay', the temporal relationship has already been established, so there's no need to repeat the past perfect.

By the way, I haven't forgotten your exercise, Hela – I'm looking for an appropriate text!

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Thank you both for your help, and thank you MrP for not forgetting me about the texts...Emotion: smile

Now, how would you both analyse the sentence "The great bird lay stubbornly misshapen on the floor" ?

The great bird = subject
lay = intransitive verb
stubbornly misshapen = subject complement ? / adverbial of manner ?
on the floor = adverbial of time

Thank you in advance,
Hello Hela

I parse the sentence in question as;
The great bird lay stubbornly on the floor, though it was ill-shaped.

By the way, why did you take "on the floor" as a time adverbial? It's a place adverbial.

Of course, Paco, you're right. "Où avais-je la tête?!" Emotion: rolleyes
How would you translate that sentence, MrP?

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I would read our misshapen bird slightly differently: it's 'stubbornly misshapen' because it resists all attempts to lay it out correctly.

Hello Monsieur P

I should agree. Your interpretaion is much more reasonable.