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I have found these sentences which were said to be wrong if used together. This is wrong:

They were a happy couple. Their relationship was lasting for life.

It should be

They were a happy couple. Their relationship lasted for life.

Can you explain why the first one is wrong?

EDITED: Is

They were a happy couple. Their relationship had been lasting for life.

correct or wrong?

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The verb to last normally requires an end date or time (except when something is lasting a long time).

The party lasted until one o'clock in the morning.

We can say that a relationship has lasted until now, but if the couple are still alive we can't (logically) say that it is lasting for the rest of their lives, because we don't know for certain that it will.

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  • Do you mean that this would solve the problem: Their relationship was lasting up to the last day of their lives. – user1425 Jan 16 at 11:25
  • No, I don't mean that. Continuous forms of a verb are used when the action is currently happening (it is raining), or was happening at a given time in the past (I was walking down the street when I saw him). We can't say that a relationship was lasting until a certain time - we can only say, after that time, 'The relationship lasted until..." – Kate Bunting Jan 16 at 12:03
  • What's the reason for not being able to use "was lasting"? It's not always the case that there must be a clause with "when something happened". For example. a) We were drilling all morning today. Another example. b) We were watching a movie from 1 PM till 3PM. What makes it wrong to say "The movie was lasting from 1 PM till 3 PM". Maybe "last" is never used in the continuous form? – user1425 Jan 16 at 12:27
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    We know when the movie finished, so we would say that it lasted until 3 p.m. I've realised that we can use the continuous form of last with a long time (and edited my answer), but we never use it when an end time is mentioned. We could say that the relationship looks like lasting for the rest of their lives (looks as though it will last), but that isn't the continuous. – Kate Bunting Jan 16 at 13:32
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    Well, if they are dead we are looking at the situation after their deaths, not at a time when their relationship was going on (so lasted not was lasting). – Kate Bunting Jan 16 at 14:11
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They were a happy couple. Their relationship was lasting for life.

The problem with the second sentence (aside from sounding odd and non-idiomatic to an American English speaker) is that it implies that it was a long-lasting relationship until something happened to change that. Grammar issues aside, it parses similarly to:

They seemed like a happy couple. They had a life-long relationship until...

If that isn't your intent, you'd be better off with saying that the relationship was "long-lasting" (if it lasted a long time but then ended) or "life-long" (if one or both of them died while the relationship was ongoing), but there are probably other constructions that could be even more appropriate depending on what you're trying to say about the strength or longevity of the relationship.

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When talking about relationships, "last" can be used as a verb ("to last") or an adjective ("lasting").

For the verb, your first sentence doesn't work because "was lasting" implies that the relationship ended prematurely. If a couple stays together for their whole lives, we don't think of their death as a premature end to the relationship.

For the adjective, your first sentence doesn't work because a relationship as a whole is either lasting or not. A relationship can't be lasting at one time and not lasting at another time, so "was lasting" is wrong.

Often when people talk about "a lasting relationship", they're talking about a goal for the future.

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