Learn English – Continuous or Simple with “hold”


Look at theses sentences taken from an esl exercise:

In Nigeria, a three-year-old British girl has been reunited with her parents after being freed by kidnappers in southern Nigeria who had held her for four days.
Margaret Hill's parents, Mike and Oluchi Hill, said she was in good health but "covered in mosquito bites".

I don't understand why it is not "had been holding" as the emphasis is on the duration "for 4 days" not on the result. Am I wrong?

Best Answer

The way the verb to hold (hostage) is used in this sentence, is a form that already implies a long-term action, and as such does not require a continuous form to indicate this. Compare to 'The couple had lived in their apartment for eight years'; while this was obviously an ongoing action, the continuous is not required as to live already implies a long term!

Although you could say 'They had been living in their apartment for eight years', the same can sound odd to native English speakers when applied to 'had been holding', it sounds like you are referring to the short-term version of holding. To many people, it will sound like they were restraining her all the time; it paints a picture of a bunch of men holding on to this girl for four consecutive days.

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