Is the use of "for long" to mean "for a long time " restricted to only negative sentences and questions ? Example He couldn't tolerate it for long. Did he tolerate it for long ? Can I say he tolerated it for long?

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    You certainly can't say He tolerated it for long. I'm not 100% sure off the top of my head, but I suspect you can only use for long in negating contexts (or as you say, in questions: Will you be gone for long?). That restriction doesn't apply to similar forms such as He's been gone for weeks. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 14 '18 at 17:21
  • This is an interesting question. We can say "He's been gone for too long", "He hasn't been gone for too long" and "He hasn't been gone for long" but we would never say "He's been gone for long". I can't think of any examples where we would use for long in a positive context but I can't think of a good reason why we wouldn't. – Readin Jan 14 '18 at 23:41

According to CGEL*, you seem to be right about for long not being able to be used in positive declarative sentences.

(1) They didn’t laugh loudly or for long.

(2) No one laughs for long.

(3) Few people laughed for long.

(4) I doubt that he’ll laugh for long.

(5) Did they laugh for long?

(6) I’ll leave if they laugh for long.


As we see, for long does not have to be preceded by not or a negative auxiliary; it merely has to be in some sort of non-affirmative context.

*The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston and Pullum (Page 825).

  • The 6th sentence appears to be affirmative. What do you think? – somo1994 Jan 17 '18 at 6:49
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    @user271640 Although the subordinate clause (they laugh for long) in (6) is positive, it is not used to assert a positive proposition: the proposition is merely conditionally entertained. That's just like you can use any longer in I’ll leave if they laugh any longer. – JK2 Jan 17 '18 at 7:02
  • @user271640 I don't know what you're trying to say with your link. – JK2 Jan 17 '18 at 7:05
  • The link says "We don’t use long on its own in affirmative clauses. We often use (for) a long time" which is in agreement with your answer. – somo1994 Jan 17 '18 at 7:09

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