Do both mean the same? Or there's a slight difference?

Example sentence:

I got on the train, keeping a/my distance from Sumire (four people away) then got off with her (twenty minutes later).


Keeping my distance implicitly defines the distance as whatever you are comfortable with, because it's your distance. It sugggests that you are successfully avoiding something or someone. There's an element of emotive language to it - because it's your distance, it's obviously meaningful to you.

Keeping a distance is non-quantitative, and such, sounds like it's missing something. I'd expect it to be used with something to quantify:

...keeping a short/reasonable/safe distance from Sumire...


...keeping a distance of four seats from Sumire...

I'd also say it's more factual than emotive, because you remove "ownership" of the distance.

At least, that's my own personal experience (Australian English). Someone might be able to help out with some actual references.

  • Thanks for the answer. One question. Is it correct to say: "I stood four people away from Sumire?"
    – alex
    Aug 13 '17 at 6:19
  • Yep, that sounds fine to me, and is more concise than the original example.
    – Vocoder
    Aug 13 '17 at 7:56

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