I would like to ask you:

1) Is it OK to use "KEEP" in the PRESENT PERFECT

I have kept knocking on the door for 3 minutes now.

2) Is it OK to use "KEEP" in the PRESENT SIMPLE in this context

Two friends are at the office. One of them starts calling his wife on the phone every other minute. His wife hangs up on him but he goes on calling. After 10 minutes have passed the other guy asks the one calling.

Why do you keep calling her?

Would it be OK to use KEEP with the PRESENT SIMPLE, taking into consideration the fact that, the calling had been happening for 10 minutes only at the time of asking but apparently it had a potential to go on for some time.

  • 2
    @Jolenealaska: your remark is totally irrelevant on ELL. In order to understand and explain how any language works you need grammatical terms. Someone will more or less (note the more or less, please) speak and write his native tongue by simple imitation but that doesn't work when learning and teaching a foreign language where grammatical objects have to be identified as parts of speech and manipulated, they have to be given a name so that we know what we are talking about. Just imagine using "that" in place of every food item when writing a recipe.
    – None
    Mar 16, 2014 at 11:23
  • 3
    @Jolenealaska I think it is critically important to remember that a) Speakers of other languages typically learn a great deal more formal grammar than has ever been taught in American schools; it is a more natural mode of discourse for them than for us. b) As native speakers, we have 'internalized' the grammar, and our vast experience of the language allows us to jump from particular points to general application. But learners do not have that experience; they need the formal grammar as a basis for generalization. Mar 16, 2014 at 14:22
  • 2
    @Jolenealaska But for them it is not a burden: it is a tool. Mar 16, 2014 at 14:31
  • 2
    @Jolenealaska Exactly! ... This issue, by the way, is hotly debated among English teachers of both native and non-native speakers. From the 70s forward formal grammar instruction in the US virtually disappeared in favour of production-based methods; it is only fairly recently that some teachers have come to realize that the methods by which children acquire a first language can only be duplicated with foreign languages and dialects (including the literary and academic dialects) IF you can provide something approaching sustained total immersion - which is of course impossible in the classroom. Mar 16, 2014 at 14:50
  • 1
    @Jolenealaska And that is exactly why we need multiple answers. Learners are different, they have different purposes and have been subjected to different methodologies. Some learners will get more out of your answers, some will get more out of mine. ... This is equally true in the classroom. Mar 16, 2014 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


You have used both constructions exactly as you should.

In the first example, you describe an activity which started in the past and continues up to the present. You do not address future use: it is irrelevant whether you will continue to knock. This is a standard occasion for the present perfect. You might also say “I have been knocking for three minutes”; using keep here emphasizes that you have persevered longer than would ordinarily be expected.

In the second example, you describe an activity which although it started in the recent past is still occurring in the present and looks like it will continue into the future if you do not intervene. The activity in question is not the calling but the continuing to call. This is properly expressed with a present-tense form, either present simple or present progressive. Ordinarily you would use the present progressive, which expresses what linguists call the imperfective aspect: the sense of being in the middle of an unfinished action. But with keep you use the present simple, because imperfectivity is “built in” to the meaning of the word.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .