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  5. "Er liegt auf dem Sofa."

"Er liegt auf dem Sofa."

Translation:He is lying on the sofa.

July 15, 2013



why not he lays on the sofa?


Because the only thing you lay on a sofa would be an egg. You lie down. You lie on a bed or sofa. You lay floorboards or carpet - not yourself. It was marked as an error because it was wrong.


It is very common in English to say lay down or he lays down.


It Is common, but it is wrong. In present tense it requires a direct object.


This kind of prescriptivism drives me insane.


They are two different actions.


By definition, by being common usage it cannot be wrong.


Zirkul: dictionaries are supposed to describe common usage, not attempt to modify it. Sometimes they fail in this goal, but it is not their purpose. This is why the word literally has a dictionary definition as an intensifier.

This isn't some mad hippy idea I just came up with, btw. The idea that the way a language is used should be described rather than prescribed is the entire basis of linguistics.

  • 1905

In case I haven't made myself clear, that was to demonstrate that some types of common (at least around where I live now) usage do not, and should not pass for standard English. If I understand you correctly, you seem to be implying that substituting "lay" for "lie" is common usage, and hence should be in a dictionary. Would you mind providing a link to one? I keep being down-voted by people, who can, at best, link to an opinion piece suggesting that the (mis)use of the word "lay" is acceptable. Can you do better than them, or are you one of those?

All I am saying is that until this meaning of the word makes it into a single respectable dictionary (Oxford, Merriam-Webster, American Heritage - you name it), a teaching program has no business accepting it.



mistake 12: Forgetting that correct usage ultimately comes from users. The disdain for the usage of common people is symptomatic of a larger problem: forgetting that correct usage ultimately comes from the people, not from editors, English teachers, or usage commentators. You’re certainly entitled to have your opinion about usage, but at some point you have to recognize that trying to fight the masses on a particular point of usage (especially if it’s a made-up rule) is like trying to fight the rising tide. Those who have invested in learning the rules naturally feel defensive of them and of the language in general, but you have no more right to the language than anyone else. You can be restrictive if you want and say that Standard English is based on the formal usage of educated writers, but any standard that is based on a set of rules that are simply invented and passed down is ultimately untenable.


with this line of reasoning (not only in this post, but all others advocating language authority by "common usage" only) we are doomed indeed for Idiocracy.


I believe that is what is called a strawman argument. Nobody is advocating language authority by "common usage" only.


You're right. Not anything reasonable, like a book or a pillow : P


I agree. I wrote "lays" and it was marked as an error. Why?


Fantastic debate!


Does liegen also mean to lie, as in speaking falsely?


That would be lügen


Can one say "He lies down on the sofa"?


"Lie down" is more oriented towards the action of it, first of all. As for the verb tense, it's a present simple usage, for you when state it as a true situation, or as part of a repeated situation. So 1) When is he truly happy? Ans. : When he lies..... 2) When does he? He always....


That would mean something different.

He is lying - describes a state of being motionless horizontally.

He lies down - describes a motion of going from a vertical position (sitting or standing) to a horizontal one.

In German they are similarly distinct: er liegt / er legt sich hin. (Note that "lie down" is a separate but related verb with a different vowel, and that it is reflexive -- a more literal translation would be "he lays himself down".)


I'm a native English speaker, and that sounds a little strange. I don't think people say that. One common thing I hear is, "He's lying down on the sofa."


Well I think I've heard it before, like if you ask where someone is. It does seem kind of unnatural though.


Could anyone please tell me what is the difference between auf and an?


This might not work for all use cases (especially an has many meanings) but as a general rule of thumb for positional context (examples with die Rampe, feminine):

auf means with dative case a position as in on, on top of, with accusative case a direction as in onto.

„Er fährt auf der Rampe.“ – He's driving on the ramp.

„Er fährt auf die Rampe.“ – He's driving onto the ramp.

an means with dative case a position as in by or next to, with accusative case a direction as in to.

„Er fährt an der Rampe.“ – He's driving by the ramp.

„Er fährt an die Rampe.“ – He's driving to the ramp.


thanks for the excellent description !


Er liegt auf dem sofa. Why does auf take dativ. I understand that liege is a transitive verb and as such should take accusative.


Unfortunately the transitivity of the verb doesn't really matter here. It's done based on the case determined by the preposition. If you check here https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/German/Grammar/Prepositions_and_Postpositions - Auf is a "two-way preposition" meaning that it can take a dative or an accusative. Accusative is (to simplify it a bit) used when something is moving from one state to another, and dative when the thing is in that state.

Another example is "Wir gehen in die Kneipe" (accusative) vs "Wir sind in der Kneipe" (dative)


"Liegen" is not transitive.

Perhaps you're thinking of its causative cousin "legen"?


hmm, this one confuses me a bit. The sofa is the direct receiver of the action (hence i would think accusative) ..yet we are using the dative case. Is dative more appropriate due to the static position he takes. If he was jumping on the sofa, then would it be in the accusative? Thanks


The sofa isn't a direct object of the sentence. It is a prepositional object, and for prepositional objects the grammatical case of the noun is determined by the preposition.

The preposition auf is a so called two-way preposition as it can be used with two different grammatical cases with different meaning.

You use dative case with auf for when the position does not change:
„Er liegt auf dem Sofa.“ – “He's lying on the sofa.”
You use accusative case for auf wen the position does change:
„Er legt sich auf das Sofa.“ – “He lays onto the sofa.”

belegen (more like to occupy) on the other hand could take a direct object, without the preposition. Then the object would be in accusative case as well:
„Er belegt das Bett.“ – “He occupies the bed.”

As to the other sentence: springen (to jump) with the preposition auf could also use both cases:
„Er springt auf das Bett.“ – “He's jumping onto the bed.” (e.g. from the floor, change of position, acc.)
„Er springt auf dem Bett. “ – “He's jumping on the bed.” (i.e. up and down, staying on the bed, dat.)


There shouldn't be anything wrong with laying


Lay is a transitive verb (requires an object) He is laying the book on the table. He lays his clothes out every day. The past tense is "laid".

Lie is intransitive. He is lying on the sofa. The book is lying on the table.

The past tense of lie is lay. He lay on the sofa for an hour. The book lay on the table until she picked it up. To say lie instead of lay is fairly common in US spoken English (and perhaps elsewhere?), but that doesn't mean it's correct.

  • 1905

I am afraid it's a lost cause. You can't teach people who don't want to learn. If you look through the discussions in this thread, you will see a number of posts by people adamantly insisting that their dialect (which is yet to make it into a single dictionary, American or otherwise) qualifies for standard English. I am sure they will be just fine in whatever small place they live in.


I would say "He's laying on the sofa.", for an inanimate object "It's lying on the sofa.". Laying on the sofa is an action like relaxing.


"laying on the sofa" the song! we have a theme song!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYa7EAkTRPo


Darn lie vs lay. Never culd keep them straight.


Why we use "dem" here?


Have a look to bimweg one page up. Because it is static, he is already lying there. If he were going to lie down there it would be Er liegt auf das Sofa. (or er legt sich auf das Sofa).


I'm glad you corrected this, because your original indirect object explanation (that was emailed) was not correct. German rarely works like English in this way.


I'd even be gladder if you hadn't noticed it, but good to know that there are observant readers.


He is lying on the sofa would be said. Liegt, I always thought, meant lie, not is.


In my experience, English doesn't tend to be as precise about the position of objects - we say that the glass is on the table and the book is on the table too, rather than saying that the glass is standing on the table and the book is lying on the table.


Is on the sofa implies sitting; liegt implies lying down.


I believe that is supposed to be laying, not lying....


Supposed to be? Most certainly not.

Conservative speakers use lying intransitively (to be in a horizontal state) and laying transitively (to place "something" into a horizontal state).

Many native speakers use laying intransitively as well, and ther are arguments for and against accepting that usage as an additional option on this page already in other comments.

But as the only option or at least the preferred option, as you seem to be implying with your use of "supposed to be"?

I don't think that's going to happen.


The question to be asked here is "how important is the 'lay, lie' distinction in common German usage today?" Because it's quickly disappearing in English.


It's still very much alive in German, with no signs that I can see of merging.

Perhaps because the past tense of one verb does not look like the present tense of the other, as in English -- "I lay" could be ich lege or ich lag, which are distinct in German.


Why is the sofa in dative form ??

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