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Do these sentences have a different meaning ?

You kept me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

You prevented me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

4 Answers 4

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Both sentence have a similar meaning in terms of not having dinner at a given time, however there is a difference

You kept me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

potentially has two different interpretations, 1) it could mean you were delayed having dinner in the sense that one was kept (held) and then subsequently released

You kept me from having dinner at 6:00pm by keeping me waiting for you.
You delayed me from having dinner on time by keeping me waiting for you.

or 2) it could mean you were stopped from having dinner

You kept me from having any dinner last night by keeping me waiting for you.
You stopped me from having any dinner last night by keeping me waiting for you.

The ambiguity is usually resolved by the surrounding context.

Using prevented is unambiguous, meaning the event did not happen

You prevented me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.
You stopped me from having any dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

Snuffing out cigarettes will help prevent forest fires.
Taking vitamin C will help prevent colds.

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When it comes to definitions they are synonymous.

However in conversation, it is implied that kept delayed your meal, whereas prevented did precisely that: you did not eat dinner.

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  • I'm a native English speaker - well the American version of English anyway ;-) // I disagree with your differentiation. To me both sentences imply that you went without a "proper" dinner. It is ambiguous if you may have eaten something much after the expected mealtime such as some sort of snack before bed.
    – MaxW
    Jan 16, 2016 at 20:06
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(1) You kept me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

(2) You prevented me from having dinner by keeping me waiting for you.

Both sentences mean the same thing. You went without a "proper" dinner. You may have eaten something afterwards like a snack before bed.

A English speaker would certainly understand both sentences, and both sentences could have conceivable been spoken. However I don't particularly like either sentence.

The first sentence uses kept and keeping. It just seems awkward. Better phrasing would be:

You kept me waiting, so I missed dinner.

The second proposed sentence seems awkward too. I assume that the sentence is trying to express righteous indignation for having been stood up. "Prevented me" and "keeping me" have the wrong connotation since it was the speaker's decision to wait for what seems like an exceptionally long time. So if the speaker transfers all the blame in such a manner then the speaker's objection seems overstated and it makes the speaker seem hotheaded.

I missed dinner because I waited for you.

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"To keep someone from doing" and "to prevent someone from doing" are just variants. "to prevent" is Latin, "to keep" is more everyday language.

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