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To express "lengthen an essay", should I write "prolonger la composition" or "allonger la composition"? I found in the dictionary saying these two words both means to lengthen.

My question is "Elle a essayé de/d' ________ son article", given the options to fill in the blank are A prolonger B longer C allonger D accroître.

Thank you so much for your help :)

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Prolonger is more like to append something at the end of an existing object while allonger can also mean to stretch something to increase its length.

Both prolonger and allonger are then possible among the four suggested choices but for an essay, I'd rather write :

Elle a essayé d'étoffer son article. (add more substance to it)

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To express "lengthen an essay", I would personally use "rallonger la composition".

According to Larousse definition:

Accroître la longueur de quelque chose : Rallonger un article de quelques lignes.

It is a very close synonym of "allonger" (and nowadays, I think you can use both as you wish), but it expresses the idea of adding something. The definition I linked above states:

Allonger = rendre plus long ou faire paraître plus long.

Rallonger = rendre plus long en ajoutant quelque chose.

But it's a subtle difference. Back to your question.

What is the difference between allonger and prolonger?

Most of the times, "prolonger" is used to express lenghtening something in time, or for an existing line (road, train line, etc).

Suite à ses performances, nous avons décidé de prolonger sa période d'essai.

Grâce aux récents travaux, la route a été prolongée jusqu'à la ville voisine.

I would use "allonger" when I'm talking about something more abstract.

Please note that "allonger" also has other meanings, the main ones being:

  • To lay someone down: J'ai allongé la victime par terre pour qu'elle se sente mieux.
  • To extend / stretch a body part: J'ai besoin d'allonger le bras pour atteindre cette boîte dans mon placard.

All the meanings are listed in the Larousse definition for "allonger".

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Bonjour Claire,

"prolonger" est à prendre au sens "étendre" dans la durée (lié au temps), par exemple "je prolonge la durée du confinement". "Allonger" est plus à prendre au sens physique ou au sens spatial (ajouter de la longueur) : "je m'allonge sur mon lit". Bien entendu, il existe des exceptions. Dans le cas de votre composition, je dirai plutôt (au choix) :

  • "poursuivre la composition"
  • "continuer la composition"
  • "prolonger la composition"

Vous pouvez écrire la phrase qui vous pose problème ici si vous le voulez, je me ferai un plaisir de vous accorder de l'aide supplémentaire. Bonne journée.

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  • My question is "Elle essaie de ________ son article", given the options to fill in the blank are A prolonger, B longer C allonger and D accroître. Thank you so much for your help :) – Claire Apr 18 at 15:48
  • For this specific question, you should focus on the "de". It has no apostrophe, so it cannot be "d'allonger" or "d'accroître". "Longer" makes no sense in this context, so the right answer would be "prolonger". – Reyedy Apr 18 at 16:02
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    +1 Reyedy, that is the exact way to think. – NaNoS Apr 18 at 16:12
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If what you mean is that she padded her essay with less relevant stuff to make it longer, then allonger is perfect. It is used in cooking, where allonger une sauce means to dilute it with water. It can be used figuratively for productions of the mind such as an essay or an article and it would be understood as a slight criticism. Otherwise, a neutral way of expressing the idea would be rallonger l'article.

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