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    • Join Date: Jul 2010
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    #1

    use of 'was' when talking about duration

    A coteacher approached me this morning with the following question.

    It was about a sentence from a textbook. I can't remember exactly how the sentence went but I'm pretty sure it was one of the following.

    'I was asleep for 50 years' OR 'I was sleeping for 50 years'

    Her question was would it not be better to use 'have been' in place of 'was'.
    I said the following to her. That we use 'have been' when talking about the past up to the present. That 'was' could have been any time in the past. Of course she knew this all already. But, she seems to think that it is not appropiate to use 'was' and 'for' when talking about duration.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  1. philadelphia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: use of 'was' when talking about duration

    Quote Originally Posted by Alanoliver View Post
    A coteacher approached me this morning with the following question.

    It was about a sentence from a textbook. I can't remember exactly how the sentence went but I'm pretty sure it was one of the following.

    'I was asleep for 50 years' OR 'I was sleeping for 50 years'

    Her question was would it not be better to use 'have been' in place of 'was'.
    I said the following to her. That we use 'have been' when talking about the past up to the present. That 'was' could have been any time in the past. Of course she knew this all already. But, she seems to think that it is not appropiate to use 'was' and 'for' when talking about duration.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    *Not a teacher

    I do not see any problem with 'was' + 'for', either. However, she may have thought of 'had been' instead of 'have been'.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: use of 'was' when talking about duration

    Quote Originally Posted by philadelphia View Post
    *Not a teacher

    I do not see any problem with 'was' + 'for', either. However, she may have thought of 'had been' instead of 'have been'.
    Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with "I was asleep for 50 years" (other than the fact that it's quite unlikely!)

    However, "I have been asleep for 50 years" means you're still asleep and therefore, I would say, incapable of saying/writing the sentence!

    "I had been asleep for 50 years [before I finally woke up]" is fine.

    Personally, I would probably say "I slept for 50 years".


    • Join Date: Jul 2010
    • Posts: 2
    #4

    Re: use of 'was' when talking about duration

    Thanks guys. Great help :)

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