Take (and last)
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Gisela from the Czech Republic writes:

I'm not sure about the difference in use between take and last. Which is better in these examples:

How long does the film last?
How long does the film take?

Roger Woodham replies:
    Take or last?

Both take and last are used to talk about the amount of time needed for something. We tend to use take when we are more in control of the experience and last when we have little or no control over it. Take suggests more active involvement and last implies a more passive experience. Thus we are more likely to say:

  • How long does the film last?
    ~ It's a long one. It lasts (for) over three hours

Compare also the following examples of greater and lesser control of the action using take and last:

  • It takes half an hour to prepare lunch and an hour to prepare supper usually.

  • Dinner lasts for / takes at least ninety minutes when Henry's at home - there's so much to talk about.

  • The five-set match lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours before the champion went through to the next round 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2. "I didn't expect it to take so long, but it took me twenty minutes to settle down in the opening set," he said afterwards.

Note that when we use preparatory it as subject and when it is followed by a personal pronoun, me, you, her, him, or them, we have to use take, not last:

  • It will take you all day to tidy your room - it's in such a mess.

  • It only takes me five minutes to put my make-up on now. It used to take me ninety minutes before I got married.


Like get, take is a very common multi-purpose verb and is used in many different ways. Here are a few of the commonest:

take (opposite of give)

  • I offered him four tickets for Romeo and Juliet, but he only took two.

  • The burglars have taken all my jewels. There's nothing left.

  • I'll take a copy of the agreement, if you don't mind. Then I won't forget anything.

  • I'm going to take ten minutes now to explain to you how this works.

take (opposite of bring) meaning 'carry'

They are opposites in the sense that when we use bring we are describing movements to where the speaker or listener is located, and when we use take we are describing movements away from the speaker/listener. Compare the following:

  • She took me to the hospital because I was feeling decidedly ill.

  • Take an umbrella with you. It's going to rain.

  • My secretary always brings me my mail first of all and then she takes the children to school.

  • I took my calculator to school every day until the maths teacher said: "You needn't bring them any more. We have enough now for everybody."

take (= have)

  • I'm going to take a shower now. ~ Why don't you take a bath? It'll be more relaxing.

  • Let's take a break now. You've been driving for two hours and you need to take a rest.

  • I'm going to take a holiday as soon as my boss gets back from leave.

  • We took a long walk along the seashore every evening before dinner.

  • Take a good look at this and make sure it's in perfect working order before you decide to buy it.

In all of these expressions with take + noun to describe common actions, we can use either have or take. Have is more characteristic of British English whereas Americans would be more inclined to use take.

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