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Keep on: "to continue doing something, or to do something many times."

Go on: "a) to continue doing something or being in a situation. b) to continue without stopping".

From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

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Offhand, I can't think of any context where the choice between keep on / go on / continue [present participle] makes any difference. But there are probably specific contexts where any one of those is significantly more (or less) likely to be used. –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 at 13:37
    
@FumbleFingers Thanks, Could you please tell me in which specific context I should use the relevant appropriate word? –  David Li Apr 26 at 13:41
    
As implied above, I think this is a "non-issue". In any context where you might use any of those three, you can probably assume the other two are equally valid. I would say I think that keep on is the most informal, and continue the most formal. But these are very minor distinctions that probably aren't worth taking note of (if indeed they're even true). –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 at 14:16
    
@FumbleFingers Thanks. –  David Li Apr 26 at 14:43
    
'He will go on [talking] about global warming' has more of an implication of 'go on at length'; 'He will keep on [talking] about global warming' suggests rather that he keeps on bringing up the subject. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 26 at 15:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Per my comment to the question, in most contexts, all three of keep on / go on / continue [present participle] are synonymous and interchangeable (arguably I've given them in descending order of "informality").

But in this context I would very much prefer keep on (and definitely wouldn't use continue)...

I'm tired of your bellyaching! I wish you wouldn't keep on complaining all the time!

Maybe it's just a personal thing, but I feel to keep on has more overtones of be persistent, dogged, whereas being told to go on often means little more than "don't stop".


There are probably other contexts where one term is commonly understood to be more (or less) suitable than the others, but nothing else comes to mind at the moment. So comments welcome.

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Thanks!FumbleFingers –  David Li May 6 at 1:41

I agree with FumbleFingers that 'keep on' implies a measure of dogged persistence, where 'go on' could describe cruise control. Neither strikes me as more or less formal than the other, and both are good English. Slight difference in flavor and/or implication, depending on how fine you want or need to cut it.

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