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Specifying time duration without “for”

Can “box turtles can live for 80 years” be written “box turtles can live 80 years”? What about “I ran 13 minutes” instead of “I ran for 13 minutes”? Are the foregoing examples still proper English?

  • September 20, 2011
  • Posted by sigurd
  • Filed in Grammar
  • 5 comments

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You can live a tranquil life, live life to the full, and live and die a single man - these are the only uses my dictionary gives for the transitive of 'live' - to spend your life in a particular way - all other uses of 'live', including for a give time, are given as intransitive.

I'm afraid 'box turtles can live 80 years' doesn't sound right to me (BrE), but it could be different in AmE

And both 'He ran for 12.2 seconds in the 100m' and 'He ran 12.2 seconds in the 100m' sound equally unnatural to me. You run a race in a time, not for a time. What does he do? Go, 'Ah, that's 12.2 seconds, I think I'll stop now.'

He ran the 100m in 12.2 seconds

Warsaw Will November 20, 2011, 10:59am

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Perhaps it would help to think about whether it is the running or the time it took which is what you want to accentuate. "He ran for 12.2 seconds in the 100m" emphasises that it was the 100m which matters,and the time is not of interest, "He ran 12.2 seconds in the 100m" emphasises the time taken.

Brus September 25, 2011, 11:46am

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Perhaps it would help to think about whether it is the running or the time it took which is what you want to accentuate. "He ran for 12.2 seconds in the 100m" emphasises that it was the 100m which matters,and the time is not of interest, "He ran 12.2 seconds in the 100m" emphasises the time taken.

Brus September 25, 2011, 11:46am

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The issue you are talking about is transitivity. "To live" may take a direct object, as in your example, "Box turtles can live 80 years," but since the verb, "to live", may also be intransitive, your example involving "for" is also correct. "To run" (with regard to the specific definition of "ran" in your example) may be intransitive, but the object is always a distance, not a period of time. You may say, "I ran five miles" or "I ran a marathon", but you may not say, "I ran an hour and a half". If you use "to run" in other senses, i.e. if you mean it as to manage, it may also be transitive. You can "run a meeting". The issue is really just usage and how the verb has developed to either take direct objects or not to take them.

Hairy September 24, 2011, 5:40pm

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In spoken English it is fine ... maybe if you are writing it as part of a relatively formal report or something, then would be better to insert "for" .

Ing September 23, 2011, 5:27am

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