1

Please help me to find out the answer. Am I right if I say

I keep on walking in this dark way?

or

I keep walking in this dark way?

What is the difference between the two sentences?

2

"to keep doing" is just the shortened form of the older "to keep on doing". There is no difference in meaning. Very often we have the phenomenon that prepositions are dropped in verb constructions.

I would guess that the shortened form "to keep doing" is used more frequently today than the longer version. I think it is a general rule that when speakers have agreed on a shortened form then it is the shortened form that is used and not the older, longer one.

  • +1 But even though keep doing seems to have been around for two-hundred years, I still hear a lot of keep on doing. – WS2 Jan 30 '16 at 9:33
1

OED meaning 40(b) of the verb to keep has examples from 1800:

a. To continue, persevere, go on (in a specified course or action). b. With pres. pple. as compl.

Examples:

1800 W. Gifford Baviad (ed. 6) 27 (note) Some contemptible vulgarity, such as ‘That's your sort!’..‘What's to pay?’ ‘Keep moving’, &c.

1806 J. Beresford Miseries Human Life I. vi. 131 The Monster..keeps braying away.

1858 N. Hawthorne Fr. & Ital. Jrnls. I. 124 Niagara..keeps pouring on forever and ever.

1890 T. F. Tout Hist. Eng. from 1689 134 He kept changing his plans.

1892 Temple Bar Feb. 198 She kept tumbling off her horse.

However sense 3 of the composite verb keep on means almost exactly the same thing, but with entries from 1589:

Examples:

  1. intr. To continue or persist in a course or action; to go on with something. Now freq. with pres. pple.>

1589 G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie ii. iii. 57 In this maner doth the Greeke dactilus begin slowly and keepe on swifter till th' end.

a1616 Shakespeare Othello (1623) iii. iii. 458 The Ponticke Sea, Whose Icie Current..keepes due on To the Proponticke.

1720 D. Defoe Mem. Cavalier 255 We kept on all Night.

1856 Titan Mag. Dec. 516/1 ‘We shall never come across each other again’, she kept on saying to herself.

1889 A. Conan Doyle Micah Clarke xxii. 224 Strike quick, strike hard, and keep on striking.

The only difference, therefore would seem that keep on when used in this sense is an older form with examples from the 16th century. The bare keep meaning to persist in a course of action does not begin to appear until the 19th century

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