I have seen on a door of a room "KEEP OUT". Apparently, they do not want people to enter the room.

But suddenly I reminded of other instances of "KEEP" being used as an positive imperative (rather than negative), such as "KEEP QUIET" instead of "DON'T MAKE NOISE" or "KEEP FIT" rather than "DON'T GET FAT". or "KEEP AWAY" rather than "DON'T COME CLOSER".

So, why make imperatives using the verb "KEEP OUT/CLEAR/FIT/AWAY etc." rather than saying the same thing "DON'T.....".

  • 4
    Remain outside the room - remain quiet etc. Two words is shorter than three for putting on signs! Jun 20, 2022 at 9:20
  • 2
    It's idiomatic. You just have to accept it. Keep Out is for any space.
    – Lambie
    Jun 20, 2022 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


"Don't" could be seen as authoratative and slightly rude sometimes. Using imperatives is not only shorter but more formal and understandable.

  • 4
    I don't see that ordering someone to do something is any less rude than ordering them not to! Jun 20, 2022 at 12:44

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