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Which version should I use? Is there a difference in meaning?

1) He was captured like a rat caught in a trap. (a rat which is caught in a trap)

2) He was captured like a rat being caught in a trap.

I think both versions can be used, but I am not sure.

  • Which version do you think should be used? – Varun Nair Jun 4 at 12:25
  • I think both can be used? – Talha Özden Jun 4 at 12:31
  • Questions like, "Which version do you think should be used?" are more of a prompt to edit your question and provide the additional information in the question itself, not answer the query in another comment. – J.R. Jun 4 at 14:02
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Having any word there is kinda redundant. You've already mentioned being "caught" or "captured" at the beginning of the sentence. There's no need to say it again at the end.

I'd go with "like a rat in a trap". I've heard that used as an idiom before. Even if it's not the most popular, well-known idiom, it's fairly easy to guess what it means (it is fairly self-explanatory).


To me, "like a rat caught in a trap" would imply struggling. The "caught" in there gives the impression that the rat is stuck, struggling, trapped.

Having the "being" implies present tense, or more the process of being caught rather than the end result - capture - which is what you're focusing on. If you were to use "like a rat being caught in a trap" anywhere, that context would be in describing the process of a capture.

Compare:

Before he could move, the police descended on him. In less than a minute, he had been caught like a rat in a trap.

Like a rat caught in a trap, the man struggled ferociously as he was overwhelmed by the officers.

Like a rat being caught in a trap, the fleeing man found himself surrounded. "You're under arrest!" blared a megaphone.

All of these have different connotations and are used in different contexts. So what your specific case is is going to change the answer here.

  • Hi, thank you for detailed answer. I still have questions. If possible, I would like to ask. I couldn't understand why you used past perfect in the first one of the three examples above? "he had been caught". Isn't "police descending on him" happening before the "catch" . As to the second question, I would still use "like a rat caught in a trap" in the third one because I think it still describes the situation of being caught rather than the process. – Talha Özden Jun 4 at 18:21
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    @TalhaÖzden the use of past perfect positions his being caught before the end of the "less than a minute" period. I agree with you concerning the second question: I think that Mithrandir was struggling to find an example where "being caught" was valid, and didn't quite make it. – JavaLatte Jun 9 at 7:21
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"He was captured" is passive voice, and can be used to describe both the event (the moment when he was captured) and the state (his situation after having been captured).

The first sentence would be appropriate for the state meaning as "caught" used on its own relates to a state, and the second sentence would be appropriate to the even meaning, as "being caught" relates to an event.

The latter is probably less common, but as this NGRAM graph indicates, "...a rat in a trap" without "caught" is very much more widely used, because the idea of a rat in at trap is well understood.

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