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Your English: Phrasal verbs: lie

Type: Article

Responsibility for learning phrasal verbs lies with you and your students but Tim Bowen’s here to help with the challenges that lie ahead.

‘There is mounting evidence that some blame for the situation lies with the police’. If responsibility or blame lies with someone, they are responsible for it or should be blamed for it. Power or a decision can also lie with someone, meaning that they have power or the right to make a decision, as in ‘Unfortunately, the decision doesn’t lie with our department’.

To lie in means to stay in bed in the morning for longer than usual, as in ‘We usually lie in on Sundays’. This is more frequently found in the noun form in the expression have a lie-in, as in ‘I haven’t had a proper lie-in since I had my children’.

To lie behind is used to indicate the real reason for a decision or action, as in ‘We’d like to know what lay behind her decision to change her will’. If, on the other hand, something lies ahead, it is going to happen in the future and you are going to have to deal with it. It is often something difficult or unpleasant, as in ‘With major construction work on the tunnel, several weeks of delays to rail journeys lie ahead’ or ‘We need to be fully prepared for any problems that might lie ahead’.

With the meaning of having been left somewhere instead of being put in the right place, lie around (or lie about) is always used in the continuous (progressive) form, as in ‘Never leave cash or other valuables lying around’.

Apart from its literal meaning, lie down is also used in the expression not take something lying down, meaning that you will not accept unfair treatment and will complain about it or try to change it, as in ‘I’m not going to take this lying down’.

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