Hello I have a student that asked me this question.
I mentioned that the "continue to" + verb focuses on the verb but "continue the" focuses on the noun phrase to follow. Is that correct?
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Both are very similar. When you say "continue to," that can mean different things. You can put an infinitive after it, and "continue" will act as a transitive verb. "I continued to mow the lawn."
But you can also use "continue to" as an intransitive verb, where you might say something like this: "Many of the traditions continue to this day."
For "continue the," it will usually just be used as a transitive verb as well, just with a noun after it. "I will continue the process."
Both of them are just ways to use the verb "continue." I guess you can say that a difference between them is that "continue the" will be transitive, and "continue to" will be transitive or intransitive. If you say "continue the" it will usually be followed by a noun phrase, but saying "continue to" relates to verbs is ambiguous.