Is it

With enough light, plants carry out a normal life cycle


With enough light, plants carry on a normal life cycle

I'm confused because I'm not getting the exact difference between both verbs in this case. Although "carry on" means continue and "carry out" means perform, I don't know if plants should continue a normal life cycle or perform a normal life cycle

  • I would suggest carry on, as it's a normal process they continue with rather than a one-off action. – Kate Bunting May 6 '19 at 16:50
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    Since you are unfamiliar with the terms, I'd suggest that you not use them. Nothing wrong with "live" in the above context. – Hot Licks May 6 '19 at 16:50
  • either form is going to be widely acceptable. – dandavis May 6 '19 at 17:20
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    English language learner questions should not be posted here, not answered and closed asap. – David Nov 2 '19 at 20:38
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    There are nuances here that is hard to explain. To me, carry on is about some ongoing processes with no final finish post (or when the finish point is not the focus but the actual process is what we care about). carry out means performing a process with clear start and end ( and in the case of live organisms, then start it again!). – CoderInNetwork Mar 1 '20 at 23:07
  • Carry on : to continue doing something/ to continue moving on.( Example. Carry on until you're exhausted.)

    • Carry out: to complete a task / to fulfil a task you once promised (Example. You must carry out the promise / the investigation.)

It is a coincidence that in your examples they carry out the same sense ; so you may carry on such practice.


In this sentence, what's being carried out, or on, is a plant's life cycle.
By its nature, this has a beginning, a middle, and an end;
and restarts to do the same over again.

So there is one series that the plant can complete, and this allows carry out:

  • With enough light, plants carry out a normal life cycle.
    (i.e, with enough light, plants can sprout, grow, and reproduce)

But plants do reproduce, and they occur in groups with different cycles,
so there is also a continuity that allows the use of carry on.

  • With enough light, plants carry on a normal life cycle.
    (i.e, with enough light, plant life continues)

Since we're talking about plants here, this is not exactly a coincidence.
The distinction between carry on and carry out is designed for active
verb phrases with agent subjects, not metaphors of evolution.


Sometimes switching the words around will make the sentence sound better. To me, it feels like the word continue would play better in your second sentence.

With enough light, plants continue on a normal life cycle

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