Keep it off

Very few people succeed in losing weight and keep it off.

I found the sentence from a dictionary and don’t quite understand the meaning of last phrase “keep it off”.

Is that okay just to say “keep it” without “off”?

Thank you!!!

I think it would be confusing to just say “keep it”. Without “off” would it mean…they fail to lose weight and keep it (maintain their original weight). Or would it mean they lose the weight and maintain that state (of the lower weight.

Saying “keep it off” means they don’t put the weight back on. To say it another way…people might lose weight to begin with, but they put it right back on. i.e. They go back to their original weight.


It might help to realize that “it” is a pronoun and its antecedent (the noun it refers to) is “the weight.”

So if you were to say “keep it”, it would be like saying “Very few people succeed in losing weight and keep the weight.” It sounds like you are saying that you actually didn’t lose the weight, y ou kept it. (But the phrase keep it, in this context is very non-idiomatic and no native speaker would say this, in this context.)

I think there’s another ambiguity. The verb “keep” has two senses. One, is holding/saving an item (in this case, more metaphorically, weight.) Another is a sense of continuity. It suggests you not only do something, but can continue to do it for an extended period of time.

For example-- “I can not only run for ten minutes, but keep running for over an hour.”
“anyone can start a habit for a day. But can you keep up the habit for a lifetime?”
In both those sentences, keep has the sense of continuity, of continuing action.

You can also use the phrase “keep in on” or “keep it off” with regard to clothing:

I took off my jacket because it was hot, and I kept it off all day.
I put on a sweater because it was cold, and I kept it on the rest of the evening.
We have to save energy-- turn the light off, and keep it off.

I think that perhaps those those examples will help you to show in what sense “keep it off” is being used.

But to answer your question, you do need word “off,” and it wouldn’t make sense without it.


Thank you very much, ericb 100.
One more question from your example:
people might lose weight to “begin with”, to begin with what?

I could phrase it differently (which may help)…To begin with, people might lose weight. Does that help? Essentially people start with the process of trying to lose weight. To begin with = at the beginning; initially. I can see the confusion of the “with” part…I’m not sure I can actually really explain the grammar of that. Probably easier just to remember that “to begin with” = “at the beginning; initially”

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Some other ways to read it: They begin with losing weight. Losing weight is at the beginning of their attempt to lose weight. “To begin with” implies that something changes later. It’s used to set up a contrast with what happens later.

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No, ‘keep it off’ here is a set phrase which means ‘staying slimmer’ or ‘not putting more weight back on’. So in other words, lots of people diet, get slimmer, but then almost always they put weight back on eventually, because long term dieting is proven to not work.

It should also, in this context, be ‘keeping it off’.


At first, when you first start dieting, you lose weight. But long term, you put weight back on. ‘To begin with’ means ‘at the beginning’.

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Yeah, I think I get the idea that you were trying to explain. Very useful.
I’m very grateful for what you’ve done. Thanks again!!!

Thank you for making it easy for me to understand!

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To begin with implies that something changes later.
That was a good point, thanks a lot!

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I’m a university-educated and multi-language proficient adult English speaker and your explanation confused me lol.

I think the confusion lies in what “it” refers to for an English learner. One would think that “it” refers to the weight or the act of losing weight in the sense of maintaining it with “keep it” or “keep it fit.” To clarify the meaning, we can use “keep it fit” or “keep it off” in the sentence. Another thing to remember while learning set phrases is that the terms may carry different meanings in different contexts. Following is a scene from Seinfeld.

(Claire passes the table; George wants to ask her opinion on something.)
GEORGE: Claire, Claire, you’re a woman, right?
CLAIRE: What gave it away, George?

It’s highly recommendable to learn set phrases in context to distinguish different usages of words and even pay attention to minor detail, such as a little sarcasm in Claire’s speech. Linquee and Reverso are two websites I turn to for reference in learning languages from time to time.

LOL. Certainly not my intention. Was just thinking out loud! It’s probably easier to just remember it as a set phrase, as you explained.

But I do think the confusion arises from slightly different uses of the word “keep”:

You don’t have to return the book, you can keep it.
Keep the change. [action ends; also treats a physical object ]
Please keep the music off. [continuing action; doesn’t have to do with a physical object, but with an action].
The second one implies ongoing action, while the first one is a discrete event.

Even though it’s the same word, it actually means slightly different things.
In other languages, these two uses of “keep” might be two different words.