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In a hypothetical situation, I was in a lift and suddenly it stopped and I got stuck in it for five hours.

So in this situation what would I say?

"I was locked in it for five hours."

OR

"I have been locked for five hours."

According to me, if something started in the past and is still happening, then one should use present perfect continuous but my confusion is that if we use present perfect continuous here, then it may also mean that someone locked me in the elevator (Passive form).

e.g. "I have been locked by someone."

So please tell me which sentence would be appropriate here to say that I was inside an elevator for five hours.

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  • 3
    Are you calling someone from the elevator in which you are still locked, or are you relating the incident later after getting out?
    – Shoe
    Mar 4, 2018 at 15:00
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    If you say "Fred, yesterday I had been locked in an elevator for five hours" then you produce an expectation that the statement will be followed by the mention of some subsequent event.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 4, 2018 at 15:42
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    PPC is "I have been locking up in this elevator." To be locked or closed inside an elevator, the progressive (continuous) tense is not used. To be locked inside is NOT a dynamic verb. The Present Perfect is the tense used in the 2nd example.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 4, 2018 at 17:03
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    @Mari-LouA- So, my android arm works just fine except I have been locking up in this elevator. Always this elevator; nowhere else. I don't know why.
    – Jim
    Mar 4, 2018 at 17:06
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    @Mari-LouA- Not in OP's context, but if you had bionic limb that refused to move every time you got into that elevator, then it would be perfectly idiomatic.
    – Jim
    Mar 4, 2018 at 17:13

1 Answer 1

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If you are relating an incident which started and finished sometime in the past with no present relevance, then you would not use the present perfect. So, I was locked in the elevator for five hours is the likeliest choice for your context.

If you call someone from the elevator to report that you are trapped, then I have been locked in the elevator for five hours is the correct choice. (It uses the simple present perfect, not the continuous form.)

It is possible, however, to use the present perfect, even after you have escaped - but only if there is a a present relevance. For example, your friend sees you in the corridor gulping down a bottle of water and says: Are you OK? You look awful. Then I've been locked in the elevator for five hours is the probable reply.

As to your comment about the passive, calling someone from the elevator and saying I have been locked in here for five hours is ambiguous. It could mean that someone has locked you in and told you that you will remain there for five hours (i.e. I have been locked ... is the passive voice).

More likely, however, it means that the elevator has stopped functioning and you are trapped. This grammatical construction uses the copula (the verb to be) plus the past participle locked functioning as an adjective.

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