prolong/ lengthen

trunghq

Senior Member
Vietnamese
Your grandfather is rather tired so do not __________ your visit.


A. delay
B. lengthen
C. prolong
D. shorten
Key is C but I am wondering why B is not right? I check the meaning of lengthen in Oxford Dictionary and it tells me that lengthen is to make st longer. I checked lengthen your life and felt like the word can be used to lengthen a visit, why not? Please help me.
 
  • Wendy.ngo

    New Member
    Vietnamese
    Hi Trunghq,

    I think it may involve to the thing that is effected by. Prolong is used to mention the action to invisible things (trip, meeting, visit...) and lengthen is for a visible one.
     

    trunghq

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Hi Trunghq,

    I think it may involve to the thing that is effected by. Prolong is used to mention the action to invisible things (trip, meeting, visit...) and lengthen is for a visible one.
    Hi Wendy,

    Can you provide me with some specific examples for each case you mentioned?
     

    Wendy.ngo

    New Member
    Vietnamese
    Hi Trunghq,

    I have had the tailor lengthened that skirt for me.
    Meeting has been lasting for 2 hours and no one of us wants it to be prolonged any more.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I think Wendy is on the right track with "the thing that is affected".
    Where Wendy says "invisible" and "visible", I would say "making something longer in time (prolonging) or in space (lengthening)".
    But that's not the whole story.
    "Prolong" always refers to time; you cannot "prolong" in space.
    But "lengthen"—although usually in space—can also refer to some things in time. Healthy practices can lengthen your life. So why not "lengthen" with "visit"?
    Here is a hypothesis: that "prolonging" is preferred for something undesirable, like "war", "agony", or a visit that keeps Grandpa from resting.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "Delay" also makes sense in the sentence. He would like to go to bed so do not make him wait for your arrival.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think prolong also has an implication or suggestion that the increase is somehow extra, beyond what was originally planned, and often done when you are already in that meeting, visit, or whatever.

    For example:

    The discussions were scheduled to last two hours, but we had to prolong the meeting because some participants talked too much.

    Janet and John prolonged their visit to England because Janet injured her back.


    BUT:

    The conference organizing committee decided to lengthen next year's plenary session to accommodate more discussion.

    The government has announced that statutory holidays will be increased (NOT prolonged) by five days per annum from 2020.
     
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