Learn English Phrases – Keep an eye on / Keep an eye out for

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Everyday English Speaking Course

Keep an eye on: Meaning

Today’s phrases are very similar but they’re actually slightly different. The first one is keep an eye on something. To keep an eye on something means to watch it or monitor it carefully.

For example, if you’re at the beach and you have young children, you want to keep an eye on your children, watch closely to make sure that they don’t get into danger, get hurt, get lost, get into trouble, etc. You watch your children continuously. You keep an eye on your children.

Now, keep an eye on can also mean to monitor something or pay attention to it even if you’re not watching it continuously. For example, let’s say you really want to buy a particular new model of cellphone, but it’s a little too expensive. You would keep an eye on it to see if it goes on sale. It doesn’t mean that you’re constantly looking at the cellphone, it means that frequently, you check the price of the phone to see if it went on sale. So, to keep an eye on something means to watch it carefully or monitor it carefully.

Keep an eye out: Meaning

The second expression is to keep an eye out for something. This is different. The first one was “keep an eye on something” and the second phrase is “keep an eye out for something.” This means to watch carefully until that thing appears.

Let’s say you’re driving down a road looking for a hotel where you’re going to stay, but you don’t know exactly where the hotel is because you’ve never been in this city before, so you ask your husband or wife who is in the car with you, “Keep an eye out for signs for the hotel.” It means you’re watching the side of the road to see when a sign for the hotel might appear.

Or if your friend is looking for a job and asks for your help, you could say “I’ll keep an eye out” – meaning that you’ll pay attention and if a good job opportunity appears, you’ll tell your friend.

So again, here’s the difference: To keep an eye on something means to watch or monitor that thing carefully and to keep an eye out for something means to watch an area until that thing appears or arrives.

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