keep (on)

Whodunit

Senior Member
Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
Hi, how have you been? :)

Recently, I had a discussion about "keep" vs. "keep on" with an American friend. He claimed that there is almost no difference between them, and if at all, then it is that "keep" is used for actions you repeatedly do and "keep on" for continuing actions. I, however, think that it's the other way round:

I'll keep on fighting against him. (--> I'll do it repeatedly with interruptions or adjournments)
I'll keep fighting against him. (--> I'll never stop fighting until I'll finally have won against him)

Thus, I'd understand this famous line as follows:

We'll keep on fighting. (from "We are the champions" by Queen)

They are not singing about one match or fight, but about many mathes they want to win. So, they're intending to fight repeatedly (--> keep on) instead of continuing only one match (--> keep).

Am I on the right track or am I mixing up these two?
 
  • Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    Hi, how have you been? :)

    Recently, I had a discussion about "keep" vs. "keep on" with an American friend. He claimed that there is almost no difference between them, and if at all, then it is that "keep" is used for actions you repeatedly do and "keep on" for continuing actions. I, however, think that it's the other way round:

    I'll keep on fighting against him. (--> I'll do it repeatedly with interruptions or adjournments)
    I'll keep fighting against him. (--> I'll never stop fighting until I'll finally have won against him)

    Thus, I'd understand this famous line as follows:

    We'll keep on fighting. (from "We are the champions" by Queen)

    They are not singing about one match or fight, but about many mathes they want to win. So, they're intending to fight repeatedly (--> keep on) instead of continuing only one match (--> keep).

    Am I on the right track or am I mixing up these two?
    I agree with your friend. Not much difference.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hi, how have you been? :)

    Recently, I had a discussion about "keep" vs. "keep on" with an American friend. He claimed that there is almost no difference between them, and if at all, then it is that "keep" is used for actions you repeatedly do and "keep on" for continuing actions. I, however, think that it's the other way round:

    I'll keep on fighting against him. (--> I'll do it repeatedly with interruptions or adjournments)
    I'll keep fighting against him. (--> I'll never stop fighting until I'll finally have won against him)

    Thus, I'd understand this famous line as follows:

    We'll keep on fighting. (from "We are the champions" by Queen)

    They are not singing about one match or fight, but about many mathes they want to win. So, they're intending to fight repeatedly (--> keep on) instead of continuing only one match (--> keep).

    Am I on the right track or am I mixing up these two?
    I can't quote the rules but my instincts say that "keep on" is grammatically incorrect. "We'll keep fighting" isn't finite in my mind - it simply means to continue fighting. "We'll keep on fighting" doesn't sound right, however, if it is said, I see no difference in the two sentences. I would go with "We'll keep fighting" in both of your scenarios or, better yet, "We'll continue to fight".
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Well there has to be some kind of a distinction between them, because the 60s gave us the tidy "Just keep on keepin' on!" and that cannot be reduced to 'Just keep keeping' now can it?

    And since I've already confused matters, remember that "keep on" is sometimes extended to "keep right on":

    We'll keep fighting
    We'll keep on fighting
    We'll keep right on fighting

    Now, one doesn't say "to go believing" but you can say "to go on believing" and " to go right on believing"

    This is because "keep," "keep on" and "go on" all mean 'to continue,' but "go" does not.

    What a language.
     

    Sabelotodo

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    I can't quote the rules but my instincts say that "keep on" is grammatically incorrect. "We'll keep fighting" isn't finite in my mind - it simply means to continue fighting. "We'll keep on fighting" doesn't sound right, however, if it is said, I see no difference in the two sentences. I would go with "We'll keep fighting" in both of your scenarios or, better yet, "We'll continue to fight".
    I'm afraid your instincts betrayed you. :) Keep on is grammatically correct. I'm sure because I was one of those weird children who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences in school.:p On is an adverb modifying the verb keep. On, in this case,means forward (in time or space) or roughly the same as onward. It is used in this way in the old song, "Shine on havest moon, up in the sky...." Oh great! Now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head all day. :eek:
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I'm afraid your instincts betrayed you. :) Keep on is grammatically correct. I'm sure because I was one of those weird children who actually enjoyed diagramming sentences in school.:p On is an adverb modifying the verb keep. On, in this case,means forward (in time or space) or roughly the same as onward. It is used in this way in the old song, "Shine on havest moon, up in the sky...." Oh great! Now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head all day. :eek:
    Sorry to have put that hoary old song in your head... enjoy! ;) Perhaps it's the sound of the sentence construction that doesn't seem right to me. If I had to use the word "on" (or "onward"), I'd say "Keep fighting on" or Keep fighting onward". Semantics? Maybe, but "keep on" just doesn't ring true for me.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Sabeltodo, how about replacing that song in your mind with

    Big wheels keep on turning.
    Proud Mary keeps on burning
    rolling *3
    rolling on the river?

    On the other hand you can replace it with

    And the wheels keep turning, all the time,
    But there's no pounding or purring, not a sound,
    Just a feeling of stirring, hold them down, hold them down, hold them
    Down.
     

    DavyBCN

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    Sorry to have put that hoary old song in your head... enjoy! ;) Perhaps it's the sound of the sentence construction that doesn't seem right to me. If I had to use the word "on" (or "onward"), I'd say "Keep fighting on" or Keep fighting onward". Semantics? Maybe, but "keep on" just doesn't ring true for me.
    Damn! The song is in my head now as well.

    While both keep and keep on can be used to mean the same thing - to continue doing something - there are instances where you cannot use them to say the same thing. This is a common BE usage:-

    Don't keep on! - meaning stop talking to me about something or telling me something.

    Don't keep doesn't work in this example.
     

    renegade angel

    Senior Member
    English, Australia
    "keep on" is the full, correct way to say it. but in english we often drop such words.

    another word dropped quite often is "that" e.g. "he thought that she had left" --> "he thought she had left"

    other languages e.g. french, don't drop words like that and have to say it all in full

    (so really there is no difference)
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Okay, thank you all for your thorough and interesting replies. :)

    I must admit that I seem to have interpreted to much into the difference between "keep" and "keep on." If I understood your explanations correctly, the singers in the song "We'll keep on fighting" talk about one single "fight" they want to win.
     
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