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The correct answer is "kept" but I don't understand why because shouldn't "over forty years" make it past progressive? This is from an ACT practice test. The passage talks about a guy making the clock on 1753 so maybe it is because the clock is not functional today?

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closed as off-topic by Kris, Mari-Lou A, Josh61, FumbleFingers, Ronan May 29 '14 at 8:36

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Was it stated the clock no longer works? – AthomSfere May 28 '14 at 1:59
Nope, not at all. – user71454 May 28 '14 at 2:01
Best I could say then: 1753+40 = 1793 implying that it did keep, or kept accurate time but does not imply that the clock has kept accurate time for 261 years. – AthomSfere May 28 '14 at 2:09
This question may be better on English Language Learners -- it may in fact have already been answered there, if not here. – Kris May 28 '14 at 4:32
Or, perhaps you should infer that the text is from 1794 or later, since that is 41+. As for the accuracy of the clock, presumably judged by the contemporaneous standards. – Elliott Frisch May 28 '14 at 5:26
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If all of the precise time-keeping (start to finish) was in the past, regardless of whether for 40 days or 40 years, then kept conveys the proper tense.

If the comment is about it keeping precise time from some point in the past continuing until the present time, then has kept would be correct.

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I will expand on my earlier comment:

The question appears to require some extrapolation and inference that if the clock was built in 1753 and its accuracy was measured for the text to be accurate for 40 years then we have only accounted to the year 1793. 1753 to 2014 would be 261 years that are not tracked and we can presume the clock has not remained accurate well over the stated years.

In plain English:

The clock kept precise time for over forty years? (That it was accurate)

and not

The clock has kept precise time for over 261 years. (Or until last checked or measured) because of the earlier inferences.

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