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Last updated at 11:05 BST, Tuesday, 03 September 2013

Keep up

New technology

Do you keep up with new technology?

A question from Sirikunya in Thailand:
I'd like to know the meaning of the word 'Keep up'

Gareth Rees answers:

Click below to hear the answer:

Hello. Thank you for your question asking for an explanation of the phrasal verb 'Keep up'.

This verb has a few different meanings, which I will outline for you.

First of all, keep up has a basic meaning of stopping something from falling or dropping to the ground. For example, I am wearing a belt in order to keep my trousers up, as I certainly don't want them to fall to the ground when I am walking in the street.

The second meaning is, in a way, similar to this, in that it describes holding a position or remaining level with something. Imagine you are walking through town with a friend, but your friend walks very slowly and you walk more quickly. However, you want your friend to walk at the same speed as you; you want him to walk next to you. In this case, you may look behind and shout to him, 'Keep up David, keep up'. This means that you want him to walk at the same speed as you, to stop falling behind. We often add the word 'with' to the phrase:

  • 'Come on, David, keep up with me'

We use 'keep up with' in the same way when we talk about changes, changes in fashion or technology for example. I don't know how to use most of the functions on my phone, and I think I never will. This means that things are changing too quickly for me to know about everything.


So, those are the first two meanings. I hope you are keeping up with me, as we have a couple more to discuss.

Keep up can mean to continue doing something. For example, if one of my students has worked well in class, I might encourage her by saying, 'Keep up the good work. You are doing very well'. I want her to continue studying well.

The final meaning I shall discuss today concerns sleep. Now, you may be feeling sleepy yourself because I have been talking for so long. However, I hope I'm not keeping you up. This means that I hope I am not stopping you from going to bed. For example, you are a guest at a friend's house, and it is a little late but you would like to stay longer. To be polite you might say, 'I hope I'm not keeping you up, but how about another cup of tea?' If your friend answers with a yawn, you may assume that you are keeping him up and perhaps you should leave.

So, did you keep up with my explanation? If not, would you like me to say it again, but more slowly? Well, I would do that for you, but it is rather late, and I know you don't want to keep me up. So, I'll finish by wishing you good luck with your studies of English, keep up the good work and feel free to write to us with another question at any time. Goodnight.

About Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees has a BA (hons) in History and Philosophy of Science, CTEFLA, and DELTA. He has taught EFL, EAP and Business English in China, Spain and England, and he is the co-author of the Language Leader Elementary and Pre-Intermediate English language course books (Pearson Longman). He currently teaches English in the Language Centre at the University of the Arts, London.

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