With the meaning of lying down, what's the difference between these three characters? 躺 vs 卧 vs 趴
Quote:- "With the meaning of lying down...."
Yes, but as in English there are different words for different "lying down" positions.
The Chinese words you mentioned describe some of these positions.
Face up = 躺 = the supine position = lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up;
Face down = 趴 = the prone position, which is face down;
Crouch position = 卧 = bending low with the limbs close to the body; as in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- 卧虎藏龙
There is also the "Fetal Position" = 胎儿姿势 = lying or sitting curled, with limbs close to the torso and the head close to the knees.
躺 = lie - you can lie face up, face down, or sideways, but 躺 is more often used for the action that is voluntary. For example, 躺在地上裝死 (lying on the ground and pretending to be dead)
卧 = lie - you can lie face up, face down, or sideways. We use 卧 for voluntary or involuntary action. For example, 臥牀不起 (laying in bed and can't get up - involuntary); 倒臥血泊 (laying on your own pool of blood - involuntary); 臥薪嗜膽 (laying on firewood and taste a gall bladder - voluntary)
The main difference between 躺 and 卧 is 躺 is more colloquial and 卧 is more literary.
側身躺著, 仰天躺著, 面朝下躺著 = 側臥, 仰臥, 俯臥
臥牀不起 = 躺在床上起不了來
- 趴 = lie (in prone position) - you can only 趴 face down, and it is a very colloquial word (the literary version is 伏 - you can only 伏 face down)