Grab a seat, I won’t keep you a moment.

'a moment' means a short period of time like "for a moment"

The negative sentence "I won't keep you a moment." could be exchanged with positive 'will' according to the meaning of "moment" like "for a moment".

If I say "Grab a seat, I will keep you a moment.", is this sentence the same as the original example sentence?

2 Answers 2


No. I won't keep you a moment means literally I won't make you wait for even as much as a moment - in other words I won't keep you waiting for very long.

The positive version would be I'll only be a moment. (A moment is a vague measurement of time, so it doesn't make any difference whether you refer to 'a moment' or 'less than a moment'.)


Saying 'I won't keep you for a moment' in a business or a customer-service context is a form of polite contradiction or understatement. Both people know that the first person is going to 'keep' (delay) the second person for considerably more than 'a moment' (which is a flexible measure of time). If I were going to keep you for e.g. 0.25 of one second, I wouldn't say anything about that (it would be foolish). Compare a dentist or doctor saying 'this won't hurt' or 'it won't take a moment'. The listener is psychologically prepared for an unavoidable delay, and politeness requires him or her to accept what has been said. Of course, anger or disappointment may result if the delay is longer than some perceived limit.

Not keeping someone (even for a moment) is good service, whereas keeping them for any length of time is not, and service providers want to create a good feeling in customers or clients. For this reason people are less likely to say 'I will keep you for a moment'.

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