1. The age of the delegates ranged from thirty to eighty years of age.

2. The age of the delegates was ranging from thirty to eighty years of age.

Is the second sentence possible? Is the progressive form here OK? I want to express that in the particular time an in the particular place the delegates were of that age.

  • 3
    particular time, particular place = simple past Jun 3 '17 at 11:33
  • 1
    But if you have a time-span and/or more than one place, the progressive becomes an option: Back in the first quarter of the century, the age of delegates attending annual conventions was ranging... or In 1936, the age of delegates attending state conventions throughout the country was ranging... Jun 3 '17 at 11:52
  • 3
    @Tᴚoɯɐuo I can't agree: these locutions still seem very odd to me. Range (verb) describes a set of measurements at a given time or during a given period: what changes over time is the set. Jun 3 '17 at 13:30
  • @StoneyB: But when speaking of a period which is divided into discrete subperiods, or when speaking of multiple repeated experiments, say, where each experiment itself yields a range, we can speak of the range of the ranges, a "moving range", using the progressive, analogous to a "moving average". Jun 3 '17 at 13:55
  • Another example: To say "The color of the sky ranges from light blue to mauve" expresses the range of the sky color as a universal. But to say The colors of the northern night sky were changing before our eyes: they were ranging from deep navy blues and purples to iridescent reds and yellows expresses the range of displayed colors as itself something that was changing in real time. In contrast to that we could say, Over the course of the night, the colors ranged from deep blue to iridescent yellow, and there we would be expressing the range over a finite span. Jun 3 '17 at 14:14

Range in this sense is a stative verb and is therefore cast in the progressive construction only in exceptional cases—typically, in cases where you wish to characterize the state as temporary or subject to abrupt change in the near term.

That doesn't appear to be the case here. Every individual's age changes constantly over time, but we don't regard that as 'temporary': it's pragmatically stable in the near term, so we would never say "In 1930 he was being 40 years old". And the same is true of the range of ages among delegates to a particular assembly.

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