Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Keep and Kept

The word keep is defined as “to have or retain possession,” of an object, or “place an object” somewhere.  The past tense and past participle of the word keep is “kept”.

Conjugation of the verb keeps in the present and past tense:

Present tense Present tense Past tense Past tense
I keep He keeps I kept He kept
You keep She keeps You kept She kept
We keep It keeps We kept It kept
They keep John keeps They kept John kept

The word keep when used as a verb, requires an object which can be seen in the following sentences in the present tense.

  • You may keep the change.
  • He keeps his shoes outside the front door.
  • We keep food in the refrigerator.
  • John keeps his books on the desk.
  • Teachers keep a record of what is taught in the class.

 “Keep” can also be used to convey that something must remain in a certain state or in control such as:

  • Keep your hands out of the cookie box!
  • You are doing excellent work.  Keep it up!
  • Keep going straight.  We are almost there.
  • Keep your eyes on the road or else we will have an accident.
  • Keep your mouth shut.  You talk too much.
  • Learn to keep your temper in control.

“Keep” may also be used to give a specified instruction followed by away, back, off, out etc. :

  • Keep out of my room.
  • Keep back – there is a car coming.
  • Keep away from Maria.  She is in a bad mood.
  • Try to keep off the topic of marriage when you meet Tom.  He is not ready yet.
  •  We keep away from our neighbours since they are not friendly.

Examine now the use of the word “kept”. Just as mentioned in the above examples, “kept” is used to maintain (some action), especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise, etc., in the past tense.

  • I kept watch over the baby while Joan went shopping.
  • John kept his promise to stop smoking.
  • Although Tim walked very fast, we kept step with him.
  • She kept control of her temper even though she was enraged.
  • My father always kept his car in the garage when he reached home.

“Kept” and “keep” may also be used with a present participle, (which ends with “ing” and conveys an action which is incomplete or ongoing) to convey an action which is unceasing.

  • He kept staring at me which made me very nervous.
  • My teacher keeps nagging me to do better in class.
  • George keeps telling me to learn French.
  • They kept trying to teach their children good behaviour.
  • Sarah’s ex-boyfriend kept dropping in, although he was not welcome.

“Keep something back” or “kept something back” mean to hold in check, or restrain.

  • I kept back my resignation since the company has promised me a raise.
  • Rose kept back her views on the current government.
  • Jim was kept back after school when other students went home.
  • The spy kept back vital information when interrogated.
  • Police kept the crowds back to allow stars to move freely.

 To keep down denotes to hold under control or at a reduced level.

  • The government is trying to keep prices down.
  • Keep your voice down; it is disturbing others in the library.
  • He kept the estimate for the painting job down, in order to get the contract.

To “keep at” something is to persist in doing an activity:

  • He keeps at trying to improve his English.
  • Tom kept at practicing the piano, until he was able to give a solo performance.
  • If you keep at improving your cooking, you will one day become a renowned chef.

Keep and Kept may be used to convey many different meanings, by using the words with a different preposition or a participle.

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