Through Oxford Learner's dictionaries, I could find the meaning, ​

keep off
to avoid eating, drinking or smoking something

So I made a sentence to the effect that "I always keep off snacks or beverages" in an English class but a foreign teather advised me that I'd better use just "avoid" rather than "keep off" because I can't know the proper context that such specific phrasal verb is natural.

So these days, is that use of "keep off" weird? Actually there was no specific context. I just had to make any sentence.

But if I assume a specific context, like when I am asked about my efforts to keep up my health, I'd answer like that. Would it be weird?

4 Answers 4


Saying "I always keep off snacks or beverages" isn't exactly wrong, but to me, it does not sound like something a native speaker of US English would say.

Firstly, I don't find the use of keep off to mean "abstain" to be very common. Merriam-Webster doesn't even list it as a meaning of keep off.

When it is used to mean "abstain", saying "always keep off" is oddly redundant. If you are keeping off something, you are abstaining from it, which already means always.

Also, "beverage" literally means "anything you drink", so saying you are "keeping off beverages" is weird, because it sounds like you are trying not to drink anything at all!

Lastly, it would be more fluent to say you avoid "snacks and beverages", because or makes it sound like you are avoiding one or the other, but not both.


It's not weird. The sentence is ok. You can say i avoid eating snacks/beverages(If you do it intentionally) It's just up to you but your sentence is more general, one can't guess it's done intentionally or not.


This is tricky, and requires a bit of clarification of terms first. In this context, "off" is a preposition used in this sense from Merriam-Webster:

off preposition
4 a : —used as a function word to indicate the suspension of an occupation or activity
// off duty
// off liquor

"Keep" is used in this sense:

keep intransitive verb
1 b : to continue usually without interruption
// keep talking
// keep quiet
// keep on smiling

So to "keep off snacks" means to continue to suspend eating snacks. Adverbs of frequency like "always" don't refer to continuous actions. So, if you want to use "keep off", use it without adverbs of frequency:

I keep off snacks and beverages
I'm keeping off snacks and beverages


The sentence:

I always keep off snacks or beverages,

is grammatically valid. But it is in my view not fully natural in USA English. (I am not sure about UK or other versions of English.)

The phrased "keep off" used in this sense is very informal, and in my experience rather unusual. As the answer by stangdon correctly points out "beverages" is a general term meaning all things to drink. Perhaps you mean a specific type, such as sugary beverages, or sodas, or alcoholic drinks. If so, that should be made clear. As stangdon also points out "snacks or beverages" seems a bit odd. Do you really mean "snacks and beverages"?

Instead of "keepm off" one might use "avoid", "reduce", or "minimize. It depends somewhat on the context. Is this in reguasrd to health issues, or to personal preferences, or just general conversation?

Also, it sis pretty much impossible to always avoid beverages. Something like "usually avoid" or "try to avoid" might work better, depending on your exact intent.

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