English Lesson: To Keep

One of the worst things you can do when learning a language is to know only one meaning of a word. You shouldn’t stress over trying to learn all the variations of meaning. That can be a nightmare especially when it comes to phrasal verbs. However, you want to make sure you know the most common usage of the word.

Let’s take “to keep” as an example.  Most of you know this as “to have” or “to hold”. If you look it up in the dictionary, this is the meaning that’s usually listed first.

Yes, it is possible to see native speakers use this meaning:

  • keep my cell phone in my left pocket and my keys in my right.
  • My brother keeps his car parked in front of the house instead of the garage.

But, I’d argue that a much more common usage of “to keep ” is “to continue”. In essence, you keep doing something.

  • Jon keeps forgetting her name.

You’ll notice that we need to use a gerund [base form + ing] when we use “keep” in this way. Here’s some more examples:

  • You need to keep studying and practicing.
  • People had better keep watching Jon’s videos.

Also, be aware that you can use this combination of “keep” with a gerund as a soft way to complain:

  • Sometimes, it’s hard to keep studying.

The formula you’re using is: Sometimes, it’s hard to + gerund

This sounds a lot better than simple saying something is hard. “Studying is hard” just sounds whiny.

Finally, be sure to watch your pronunciation.  Anytime you’re stuck sounding out each individual word sounds bad. So remember, it’s not hard / to / keep, but it actually sounds something like like har-ta-keep. Check out the video!

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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