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zakumi Jun 3rd, 2010 02:43 am

"lasts" or "continues"?
Hi guys,

I am a little bit unsure about the difference between "lasts" and "continues". For example:

Is "The festival lasts for three days," and "The festival continues for three days," both OK to use? They both seem fine to me.

However, with "The movie lasts for three hours," and "The movie continues for three hours," the latter sounds a little strange and I am not sure why.

Are there any special rules or situations where it only one of "lasts" or "continues" would be correct? What, if any, are the differences between the two?

As an English speaker this is pretty much straight forward for me and I have no problem using the words / grammar. However, I have some students in my classes who are curious about the differences between the two and I am not really sure if there are any...

Thanks in advance :)

bread_baker Jun 3rd, 2010 05:14 pm

Re: "lasts" or "continues"?
I am a native of California and I only speak American English. In the 2 pairs of sentences you wrote, I pick the first sentence of each pair as being correct. Each subject you used takes time (a festival or a movie). I think with any other subject like that, "lasts" is the better choice. I could write sentences with "lasts" concerning weddings, sporting events, television programming, etc.
"Continues" is not used a lot. I can say, "His jokes continue to amuse me." Here it's not the jokes that continue, but my amusement. I am using "continue" to describe my emotion. I hope this helps.

emile Jun 4th, 2010 02:10 am

Re: "lasts" or "continues"?
Well, when you use the word 'continue', it implies a point of reference.

For example, the party continued for three hours after I left. I left, but the party continued.

>>The festival continues for three days.

This sounds odd without a point of reference.

>>The festival begins on Friday and continues for three days.

Ahh... now it sounds correct.

In informal speech, we'd use 'go on':

>>The festival goes on for three days.

bread_baker Jun 4th, 2010 04:44 pm

Re: "lasts" or "continues"?
Emile raised a good point. Many things have a defined time of beginning. A festival, a movie, a TV program, and a wedding all have definite times that they begin. When "lasts" is used, the speaker understands that he/she is referencing the time that the thing begins.

susan53 Jun 5th, 2010 02:12 am

Re: "lasts" or "continues"?
I think it's a mix of several things, which is what makes it so hard to define. One of them, as emile says, is that continue implies a reference point, whereas last implies a period in its entirety.

Taking last first :), I might say either of the following :

The festival lasts for three days
The festival starts on Monday and lasts until Wednesday.

The starting point may be implied by the context but is always there - so in the film lasts for three hours, the implication is "from the time it begins". And it's the same for the end point - we know the whole period.

Last then takes us from start to finish and emphasises a continuous period of time for an event.

On the other hand, I could say : The film continued after the interval. Here we know the starting point but don't know the end point - this suggests that continue is more involved with an action than a period or an event.

When I put continue into a concordancer, the majority of the examples that came up were continue + infinitive : eg they continued to argue that ... This again suggests that continue expresses an action rather than an event - which may explain the "oddness" of The movie continues for three hours where "the movie" is seen as an event, and the emphasis sems to be on the period of time.

But if we change it to The movie started at 8 and continued for three hours without a break or It's a really long film. The first half lasts two hours and then after the interval it continues for another hour and a half - suddenly it sounds a bit better. It seems there's an implied action (which we would never actually express but which might have a meaning something like to be shown, or to play) in there after continue, and the emphasis is on that, rather than on the period itself.

It seems to me that it's a mixture of :

a) emile's explanation - continue must have an reference point, which may be either the start or a restart after an interruption. Last on the other hand doesn't need one. I can tell you The film lasts for three hours without knowing exactly when it starts or finishes.
b) the difference between placing the emphasis on a period (last) where if we specify the start we must also specify the end point or an action (continue) where only the start (or restart) points are necessary. So I can say The festival continues from Monday but not *The festival lasts from Monday.
c) Breadbaker's point that continue is sounds odd in what is probably a conversational context : The film goes on for three hours does seem more feasible. I don't think this is a major factor, because I'd argue that continue is neutral in style rather than forma, and therefore should be OK in conversational contexts. But it's true that goes on is less formal, and this probably adds to more comfortable feel of the sentence.

If this seems a bit muddled, it's because it seems to me these three things are all mixed up in each example. As I say, it's a combination of the factors rather than just one thing. But if I had to plump for just one, I think I'd go for the period vs action explanation.

Tricky one .... :)

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