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Which sentence fragmen tis correct: ". . .an argument to which he had lain witness" or ". . .an argument to which he had laid witness"?

Why I'm confused: Lay/laid/laid refers the placement of a (material) object (such as a book) while lie/lay/lain refers to the reclining of one's self. Since there is reference to "he," it seems as though the word choice should be "lain," especially since there is no placement of a (material) object.

MS Word's "grammar" doesn't agree with this reasoning and warns me that I might have some verb confusion with the use of "lain," that "some verbs do not take a direct object to complete their action while other verbs must have a direct object."

I'm not a teacher, but still want very much to understand. None of my reference materials have clarified this for me. Please explain, especially in/direct objects. Thanks so much.

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Original Post
Neither the construction "to lay witness to" nor "to lie witness to" is treated in any of my grammar sources. A Google search turns up relatively few examples of either one, but those with some version of lay far outnumber those with lie.

1 present perfect example with lie:

I have lain witness to one of these masterful creatures

13 examples with lay:

... Mr. McMahon was talking about one of most recognized factions this industry has ever laid witness to.

After Polly Jean came the camp rock of Placebo, easily one of the best live bands these eyes have laid witness to.

4 examples of had laid witness to:

... Jayson, who had laid witness to Kaisa's attempts to lure him away from the shed, the raven, and Mika's attemtps to eat it, now moves swiftly to Alice's side

In simple present tense I found 11 examples of lie witness to:

ORTK believes that the suppression and denial of UFO information is too entrenched to be overturned by conventional methods of reporting. The last 50 years of UFO research and reporting lie witness to this belief.

(About an underwater wrecked ship) Fifty-five crew lie witness to this arena where the balance of nature is the rule.

(Note that these two examples of lie witness to may illustrate the literal, physical meaning of the expression--to lie prone (as) witness to (something).)

I found 113 examples of simple past tense laid witness to:

... The day the land sang of my creation is the day the world laid witness to the birth of a Runemaster.

Tears ran down my face when my eyes laid witness to the horrific pain that had captured and destroyed so many little ones.

... Beachwear, soft music, tasty appetizers, cool drinks, and the enchanting sea laid witness to the warm smiles and hearty laughter that set the jovial mood.

Although I can't find a definition of the idiom in any of my dictionaries, it seems that most of these examples could be paraphrased with the simple verb to witness or the phrasal verb to bear witness to. The idiom is not frequent, and the relatively few occurrences on Google suggest that the version with the transitive verb lay is much more frequent than the one with the intransitive lie.

Marilyn Martin
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