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In the following passage, the meaning obviously is "continuing to be their friend", but I wonder if this is merely a poetic elliptical construction or there is actually a grammatical explanation.

I have persevered in helping people all I could and continuing their friend.

Also, is my understanding correct of the meaning as “continuing to be their friend”?

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Yes, it does mean continuing to be. I would say the usage was a little old-fashioned, but it's perfectly grammatical. See https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/continue , definition 1.2.

  • It doesn't sound grammatical to me. Either "and continue being their friend" or "and continuing their friendship" sounds much better. – Jim Apr 6 at 18:29
  • @ib11 - I never said the definition was wrong, just its grammaticality. The example has a preposition (in) which differs from OP's usage. – Jim Apr 6 at 20:01
  • @Jim Thanks. But I do think this is irrelevant, since it is not something I am writing but something I was reading. So I believe we can just delete all these comments as they do not add to the answer to the OP. – ib11 Apr 7 at 17:03
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Not a phrase I have ever come across myself, I would call it bad English rather than poetry, but perhaps you can give more context, where the quote is from?

  • This is a comment - not an answer. – TrevorD Apr 6 at 17:18

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