1. There are many sights in KL to keep tourists occupied.
  2. There are many sights in KL to occupy tourists.

Which sentence is natural? Thanks a lot.

  • Both are idiomatic. Occupy already contains the idea of for a period of time, that is, the attention is not fleeting. The "keep" in "keep occupied" reinforces that idea.
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2015 at 16:10
  • You could consider "keep tourists busy" which is more idiomatic. I would suggest using "tourist attractions" instead of "sights".
    – user24743
    Nov 27, 2015 at 16:24
  • @Rathony, If you're trying to get tourists to come to KL, I wouldn't recommend that. Keeping "busy" sounds less pleasant for the tourists than keeping "occupied".
    – The Photon
    Nov 28, 2015 at 1:31
  • Both sound natural but I prefer # 1.
    – yethu
    Nov 28, 2015 at 5:56

1 Answer 1


Both are grammatically appropriate and would likely be understood by the average listener. However, since your question is about which sounds "natural," by far I would say keep tourists occupied. Most likely this is because the phrase "keep __ occupied" is an idiom with a very specific meaning. By contrast, the phrase "occupy __" has many more meanings (just check out all the transitive verb definitions for "to occupy" in any good dictionary as evidence). So there is less room for misinterpretation when using the first phrase.

  • I tend to use "keep them occupied" in the way I think you're hinting at, e.g. when speaking, for example, of children who must be "kept busy" for a certain period of time, or, say, a prison guard whose attention must be diverted so he doesn't see the escape in progress. But many people in tourism contexts use the phrase to mean "will give the tourists plenty of things to see and do". It does imply a certain attitude. The tourists must be kept amused.
    – TimR
    Nov 27, 2015 at 19:46
  • Not my downvote, BTW.
    – TimR
    Nov 28, 2015 at 2:51

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