We wanted to use this as a T-shirt quote, but I feel that "if winning isn't everything then why do they keep score" is wrong. The correct sentence should be "if winning isn't everything then why do they keep a score". However, a Google search shows that I may be wrong. Only one person agrees with my sentence. Is the first sentence just incorrect American grammar?


3 Answers 3


"Keep score" is a (slightly) idiomatic expression that means "keeping track of the score". It is not ungrammatical to use this phrase on a T-shirt (or anywhere else). If the T-shirt had the text "keep a score", it might actually give the impression that the shirt was not made by a native English speaker.

(This is speaking as someone from the US; I don't know for certain if the expression might be different in the UK.)

  • 1
    BTW, note how there's no article in "to keep track", either.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 24, 2010 at 14:02
  • 3
    Keep time, keep pace, keep tempo...
    – Kosmonaut
    Nov 24, 2010 at 17:53
  • "Keep score, keep time, keep tempo, keep track" - aren't these the American short-forms of phrases? Like how aeroplane was shortened to airplane. I'm not from the UK, but I believe that since that's where English largely originated, UK English is the correct English. From that perspective, is "Keep score" correct or not (Note that in the sentence I've given, 'keep score' is the end of the sentence. If you used 'keep track' at the end of a sentence, would it still sound correct? It doesn't, to me )?
    – Nav
    Nov 25, 2010 at 10:33
  • "...keep track of..." would be correct. I'm mostly exposed to UK English, and I've never heard of phrases like 'keep time', 'keep pace', 'keep tempo'. Grammatically, they sound very wrong. I'm open to corrections if I'm wrong...
    – Nav
    Nov 25, 2010 at 10:49
  • @Rhodri: I've heard of "keeping pace", "keeping time" etc, but not "keep pace", "keep time" etc. That's what I meant.
    – Nav
    Nov 25, 2010 at 13:24

You'll want to add the apostrophe to isn't and a question mark to the end, but there's really nothing wrong with putting such a sentence on a T-shirt. T-shirts and bumper stickers are pretty much exempt from formal rules, and no one expects them to be models of English grammar and usage anyway. I wouldn't worry about pleasing the editors on this one.

  • It's the "...keep a score..." part that I'm asking about. I'd like the English to be correct.
    – Nav
    Nov 24, 2010 at 13:56
  • 1
    I respectfully disagree that this has anything to do with T-shirts. "To keep score" is perfectly correct English in my book.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 24, 2010 at 13:57
  • I didn't see the "keep a score" part, and if that was your original question my eyes simply glossed over the "a" in it. It is normal to say "keep score," but there is nothing incorrect about saying "keep a score"; it sounds over-particular, however, and as it is better to try to state slogans in as few words as possible, I recommend taking the blue pencil to it.
    – Robusto
    Nov 24, 2010 at 14:00
  • @RegDwight: It has to do with T-shirts because the OP says it does in his first sentence. Given that constraint, I was curious why he thought there was anything wrong with the sentence (see my comment above concerning the superfluous article), but wanted to reassure him that he needn't worry.
    – Robusto
    Nov 24, 2010 at 14:04
  • It has to do with T-shirts in the sense that I want the correct English sentence to be on the T-shirt. I'm ok with casual English on T-shirts, but for this particular T-shirt, I wanted the right sentence. 'keep score' sounds wrong because it's at the end of the sentence. It may have sounded ok if it was "Did you keep score for that team?". Here, 'keep score' isn't at the end of the sentence, so somehow it sounds ok.
    – Nav
    Nov 25, 2010 at 10:37

Casual English is appropriate for a t-shirt since wearing clothing with phases on them is pretty casual. The term "keeping score" can have the meaning to keep track, but may a negative connotation of holding grudges.

  • 1
    What you mentioned is just one of the meanings of 'score'. google.co.in/…
    – Nav
    Nov 25, 2010 at 11:05
  • But you're very correct. I'd rather use 'keep a score' on the T-shirt, than allow anyone to think that it was meant in a negative way.
    – Nav
    Nov 26, 2010 at 5:56

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