This is from 'Mothers and Sons' by Colm Toibin.

It was March and a thin frost was beginning to settle. The road had been widened for stretches, and the car lights beamed on wooden fences instead of the old ditches. The road was no more the hidden, almost guilty thing it had been, huddled away from the land around. There were fewer accidents now, she supposed.

I looked up the definition of stretch and still not sure which one. Is the road widened in terms of a width only or a continuous length?

  • 1
    stretch: "2. countable noun - A stretch of road, water, or land is a length or area of it." So it is referring to certain lengths of the road. – user3169 Dec 24 '17 at 7:21
  • 2
    The road gets widened along certain lengths. – J.R. Dec 24 '17 at 11:35

If we say:

They had been driving for hours.

we mean that they had been on the road for a single length of time lasting several (or many) hours.

The preposition for introduces a span of measure.

They had been wandering in the desert for forty years.

The author should have written "in stretches" if the intended meaning was "in various (non-contiguous) sections of road" or "here and there along its length".

The road had been widened in stretches.

When there are several stretches, possibly interrupted, rather than one continuous stretch, we expect an adjective:

They sat in silence for long stretches.

Other native speakers may understand these phrases differently.

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