When used alone, the word keep means to retain, or to not give away. You can also preserve or maintain, and say that you keep something. There are many different uses of keep, and many of them are in common collocations. Examples of some of the most frequent are below.
1. Keep a secret
If someone tells you something that they don’t want anyone else to know, they may ask you to keep a secret.
This means that they don’t want you to tell anyone else, and let the thing that they told you remain hidden. Asking you to keep a secret usually means that the person trusts you.
Would you be able to keep this a secret since I have not yet told anyone else? /I really hate when people ask me to keep a secret because it makes me really want to tell everyone that I know about it! /Janice is known among all our friends as someone who is fantastic at keeping secrets.
2. Keep a promise
Similar to keeping a secret, keeping a promise means that you follow through on something that you tell someone you will do. For example, if you promise your child that they will get to play video games if they finish their homework on time, you better let them play or they will not believe you the next time.
Doctors never promise that everything is going to be okay because they cannot control whether they can keep that promise. /If you value your word, you should keep every promise that you make. /Can you keep this promise for me?
3. Keep away
Keep away can be a verb, as in the act of staying away (and not being close to) something or someone. It can also be used as a noun, describing a game that children often play with each other when they toss something back and forth between them to prevent another person from getting it. Any situation in which people are actively trying to prevent another person from getting something can be a game of keep away, even if it is not a game.
If the criminal wants to play a game of keep away, we are going to need to be ready for him. /Keep away from my daughter or I will make sure that you never step foot in this city again. /Katie told her husband to keep away from the woods because she heard strange noises coming from them at night.
4. Keep someone’s distance
Keeping your distance from something is similar to keeping away from it. It means to not go near it and instead stay far from it. The difference between these collocations is subtle, but keeping away from something often means completely ignoring it and not trying to get more information about it. On the other hand, if you keep your distance from something or someone, you may just be temporarily staying away from it because you don’t have enough information or are trying to see if you can get closer. Often, if two people have been in a fight, they will keep their distance from each other for a while until they make up.
I would keep my distance from her if I were you, because even though you were in love she did break up with you. /If you are trying to get into someone’s inner circle, it’s best to keep your distance at first to avoid seeming to eager. /If you don’t keep your distance from the television when you watch it, you are sure to go blind soon.
5. Keep in touch
If you tell someone to keep in touch with you, you ask them to stay in communication and maintain a relationship between you. Normally, you only need to say this to people that you are probably not going to see for a while, such as friends you get to know at a conference. It is often followed by an exchange of contact information, such as giving the other person your business card or saving their number in your phone. However, make sure to note that some people say keep in touch but don’t really mean it. They say it to be polite, but they may be busy or think that you don’t have anything to offer them. Don’t feel bad if this happens, as it is likely that some people who say this will actually want to stay in communication.
I think I will be in London at the beginning of next year, so let’s keep in touch so we can meet up then. /Zeus wanted to keep in touch with Hermes, but after the natural disaster communication was almost impossible to maintain. /When you don’t live in the same city, it takes a lot of effort to keep in touch with your friends.
6. Keep track of
To keep track of something means to stay informed about it, or know where it is. Native speakers usually use this phrase to describe things or information, but occasionally will use it to describe people that they are in charge of, such as a boss if you are a secretary or children if you are a parent.
How are you able to keep track of so many things at once? /Karen’s boss really needs her to keep track of all the appointments on her schedule so that she can prepare for them. /The small business kept really great track of all their earnings and expenses throughout the years so that when the government came knocking to audit their tax situation, they were able to prove what they claimed.
7. Keep tabs on
To keep tabs on someone or something is very similar to keeping track of it. You make sure to stay updated with the situation. The difference here again is subtle, but usually when you keep tabs on someone you are doing it without their explicit knowledge.
The government agent kept tabs on the suspected criminal. /I wanted to keep tabs on the new developments in my field so I could get ahead of them and understand them before everyone started to implement them. /Marcel thought he was doing a favor for his boss by keeping tabs on her, but she was furious that he had violated her privacy when she found out.
8. Keep someone posted
This collocation, often used as keep me posted means to keep someone informed about something. It is usually an invitation for you to let them know about new things that happen in your life.
This sounds like such an interesting project, keep me posted on your progress! /Keep me posted on this company as it is our biggest competitor. /The newspaper asks its readers to keep them posted about big stories that they want to hear about.
9. Keep in mind
If someone asks you to keep something in mind, they mean that you should remember that thing. This phrase is often used to emphasize exceptions to a rule. You might ask a student to keep in mind that “I” comes before “e”, except in all the words that the spelling comes “e” before “I”.
Students, I want you to keep in mind that during this historical period, it was widely accepted by the church that homosexuality was a result of unhealthy childcare by the parents. /Even though Mother Teresa did many good deeds, keep in mind that she encouraged the poor to suffer, which she said was satisfying to her lord. /Thomas, when you pack, keep in mind that the weather in Southeast Asia is going to be extremely hot all year.
10. Keep it up
If you bring a report that you wrote to your boss and he tells you to keep it up, that means you should continue doing what you are doing! Keeping it up means that you have done a good job and should not stop trying. If you want to address something specific, you may replace it with another noun.
Ron, your work this year has been stellar – keep it up! /Son, your teacher said that your test scores have been improving, so you should keep it up! /My coach said that my shooting style is really confusing the defense, so I should keep up my practicing!
11. Keep up the good work
This phrase is similar to keep it up, indicating that you have done good work and should continue. There is no difference in these two collocations, except that keep up the good work is usually used as a standalone sentence. You don’t need to add it in the middle of another sentence.
Did you see your test scores? Keep up the good work! /Christine, I heard your report was published by the New York Times! Keep up the good work! /I can’t believe you have grown your business three times in the last month! Keep up the good work!
12. Keep a diary or journal
If you want to record the things that happen every day, you can keep a diary or keep a journal. Write in your diary whenever something good happens so you end up with a great record of your wins!
I kept a journal when I was younger and it’s hilarious to go back and read my entries to see how naïve I was back then! /If I don’t keep a diary, I easily forget what I did. /Did you know that a lot of people in history kept journals? People like Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Darwin’s records are amazing!
13. Keep an appointment
If you make an appointment with someone, including your friends or the doctor, you should keep your appointment by showing up to meet them at that time and place. Keeping an appointment means to go to that appointment.
Don’t forget that you should leave at noon to keep your dentist appointment! /Doctors really hate when patients do not keep their appointments. /The journalist made an appointment with the CEO of a troubled company for an interview, but the CEO did not keep the appointment.
14. Keep pace
If you keep pace with something, it means that you stay updated and know what is happening. You can literally keep pace with something that is moving, such as a car, or keep pace with something metaphorically, such as a fast-growing profession.
If you do not work hard, it will be hard to keep pace with all your friends./The new runner was not able to keep pace with the experienced runners, so he was left in the back all by himself. /Try to keep pace with us, or tell us if you cannot so we can help you.
15. Keep calm
In the face of danger, you should keep calm, or try not to show too many emotions.
Keep calm and carry on is a trademark phrase in the United Kingdom from World War II. /Hey, I need you to keep calm and don’t panic if we are going to get out of this situation, do you hear me? /The best way to deal with a crazy person is to keep calm so they lose interest and stop bothering you.
16. Keep control
Keeping control means to maintain authority over something, usually to make sure it stays peaceful. More often than not, you keep control of a group of people, such as a crowd, or a situation.
Once the police came in, they were able to keep control of the situation. /It’s very difficult to keep control of a crowd. /In the wake of a natural disaster, it’s almost impossible to keep control of the situation unless you have done serious preparation work.
17. Keep quiet
Part of keeping calm and keeping control is keeping quiet – or making sure that people do not make any noise.
In the movie The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family has to keep quiet at the very end of the movie to avoid being found by the police. /I need you to keep quiet because everybody is sleeping, okay? /There is no need to keep quiet anymore because we live in our own house now!
18. Keep your voice down or keep it down
If someone is unable to completely keep quiet, you can compromise by asking them to keep their voice down. For this, the person does not need to be silent, but any noise they make should be as quiet as possible.
Children, keep it down please! /As we walk through these halls, please keep your voice down because any sound in this area echoes very loudly. /Keep it down so that the baby can sleep.
19. Keep something on the down low
This is an informal phrase, often crossing the line over to the slang category, that means to keep something secret. Keeping something on the down low means that you should not openly discuss the topic in public, and the only people that know about it are a select group.
Please set up a meeting between our boss and the journalist, but keep it on the down low so other executives don’t hear about it. /I want to keep our relationship on the down low, just until I figure out how to tell my parents. /No need to keep this on the down low, but there’s no need to broadcast it to everyone, either.
20. Keep someone’s place
If you are waiting in line or reading a book and don’t want to lose your spot, you can keep your place by asking someone to stand in the queue for you or placing a bookmark. In other words, you can mark a spot that you want to come back to.
Would you mind keeping my place for just a minute while I go use the restroom? /I had a bookmark to keep my place in this book but it fell out so I don’t know how much of the book I have read. /I thought my husband could keep our place for a picnic in the park but it turns out that was not allowed.
21. Keep the change
If someone provides good service to you, you can pay them with cash and ask them to keep the change. This means that the money you give them should cover what you owe, and the rest is a tip for that worker.
I was in a hurry so I just told the valet to keep the change. /Your brother thought that the waiter was extremely attentive and sweet so he told her to keep the change. /Nancy said that she was in such a rush to get out of the car that she forgot to tell the taxi driver to keep the change before slamming the door and running up the steps!
22. Keep up
This phrase is easily confused with the phrase keep it up, but they have different meanings! To keep up means that you can keep pace with someone, whether that be literally when you are moving or metaphorically when they are speaking, teaching you, or doing something else. It is common for students or new employees to say that they can’t keep up if they are having a hard time getting to where everyone else is.
If you aren’t able to keep up, you have to let me know right away because it’s incredible easy to fall behind. /Hey, I’m worried about you! Have you been able to keep up with the rest of the students or not? /The athlete was older than his teammates and was not able to keep up with them during the workout.
23. Keep your job
If your company is going through a hard time but your boss tells you that you will keep your job, you can take a big sigh of relief! To keep your job means that you will not be fired and your company wants to keep you.
It’s an economic recession, so if you want to keep your job you better start producing results. /The great thing about working for the government is that there are very few instances where you won’t keep your job. /My secretary should have come by to let you know that you will not be keeping your job because of department-wide layoffs, so you should make the appropriate preparations.
24. Keep a copy
If you always make a backup copy of important documents, you are keeping a copy of them!
Sometimes they take up a lot of space, but keeping a copy of documents like passports and bank statements can come in really handy! /I always keep a copy of our house key in my car in case I forget to bring it when I leave the house. /Wanda wanted you to keep a copy of her birth certificate for her, so, where is it?
25. Keep records
Similar to keeping a copy of something, keeping records means that you have a log or list of important information, such as family birthdays, financial transactions, or historical events.
The public library in any town probably keeps a lot of public records. /Even if your doctor keeps records, you should always keep a copy of your basic medical history in case of emergency. /The local church often keeps records from as far back as the town goes!
26. Keep animals
On farms, farmers keep animals, or raise them to sell their meat later. This phrase is not limited to farms.
I had no idea, but apparently, our family kept dogs before my grandfather moved us to the city! /It is illegal to keep animals in this neighborhood because of the noise and smell. /I have no idea how the zoo keeps so many animals because they require so much care!
27. Keep costs down
If you try not to spend much money and cut unnecessary costs, you can keep costs down.
The only way that we can avoid layoffs is to keep costs down this quarter. /If you keep costs down, you can travel for years without having to make much money! /One trick to keep costs down is to make your own food instead of buying it from restaurants all the time.
28. Keep someone
If you are in a meeting and it accidentally goes over the time you put aside, you may keep someone by asking them to stay longer than they promised. This is often used to describe meetings that last longer than expected. It can also refer to a romantic relationship, where keeping someone means that you will continue your relationship with them.
Your girlfriend is awesome, you should definitely keep her! /I’m really sorry to have kept you, but I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did! /Do you mind if I keep Tom for two more minutes?
29. Keep safe
To keep something or someone safe is to make sure that they are not in harm’s way.
I promise to always keep you safe. /Will you keep my son safe while I take care of this problem? /Keeping yourself safe is more important than money!
30. Keep something to yourself
If you don’t tell something to anyone, you keep it to yourself. If you don’t bother or interact with other people, you keep to yourself.
It doesn’t matter what your religion is, just keep your beliefs to yourself and don’t try to force them on other people. /Keep your hands to yourself at kindergarten, okay? /If you are in a bad mood, it’s not always good to keep to yourself because your friends can help cheer you up.
31. To be someone’s keeper
If you are in charge of someone, you are their keeper. This phrase is often used sarcastically to mean that you are not in charge of someone, so it doesn’t make sense to keep asking you about them.
I’m not my brother’s keeper; I have no idea where he is right now, nor do I care. /Infants and the elderly are best served if they have a keeper taking care of them. /Haley is to be my keeper if I cannot take care of myself.
32. Keep someone or something at bay
To keep someone at bay means to keep them at a distance, not letting them see your inner world. This is something that you probably do automatically with strangers. If you keep something at bay (usually referring to emotions), you try not to feel that emotion.
Even if I win a gold medal in the tournament, I try to keep my happiness at bay because my ultimate goal is winning at the Olympics. /I don’t know what it is about Frank but I think you should keep him at bay. /I try to keep my emotions at bay before I take a deep breath and figure out how to handle challenges.
33. Keep someone company
If you spend time with someone, usually by having a conversation, you keep them company. This refers to a relaxed and amicable chat, not a serious business meeting or a break up conversation with your soon to be ex. Keeping someone company usually happens when one of you is waiting for something that is about to happen.
I had some time so I decided to keep Vera company. /I wish I had someone to keep me company because I am getting so nervous I’m about to burst while waiting for my interview. /Keeping someone company is a great way to get to know them better.
34. Keep someone in check
If someone is becoming too extreme, too emotional, or anything off balance, you want to keep them in check to make sure that they don’t go crazy. Keep them in check by making sure they do not get too emotional or start thinking about Step 20 before they have taken Step 1.
If you don’t keep your dog in check we will have to ask you to leave. /Who keeps the President in check if he wants to launch nuclear missiles? /The technology companies have been keeping each other in check to prevent one from invading personal privacy too much.
35. Keep someone grounded
If you interact with very successful people, you might want to keep them grounded, or remind them of reality and the experiences of regular people or their fans. Keeping someone grounded is a good way to help them stay humble so they can keep working to serve the public rather than becoming caught up in their fame and fortune.
If you don’t have someone to keep your grounded, you may end up like Britney Spears in the early 2000s. /“My mother and girlfriend really keep me grounded,” said the singer. /Some CEOs will hire someone whose job it is to keep them grounded and thinking about the regular person using their products.
36. Keep score
If you are in a competition, you can keep score to see who wins! This means that you keep track of the points of the people playing so you can compare who is winning and who is not.
In a relationship, you should not keep score with your arguments or you are planning for a bad break up. /I really like to keep score on things because I’m competitive. /Was anyone keeping score for this last game?