There are sometimes very subtle differences between similar phrases like “be safe,” “stay safe,” and “keep safe.” Most of these differences are barely noticeable, but it would help to go through them a little more. This article will explain all you need to know.
Be Safe, Keep Safe or Stay Safe: Which Is Correct?
All three phrases are correct. It’s most common for a native speaker to use “be safe” because they want to use “be” as an indication that somebody will remain “safe.” “Stay safe” and “keep safe” work best when there may be an implication that someone might be in slight danger.
“Be safe” tends to be the more general phrase of the three. It’s much more common for native speakers to use it because it applies even when someone isn’t doing anything dangerous.
According to Google Ngram Viewer, “be safe” is by far the most popular choice of the three. You can see from the graph that “keep safe” and “stay safe” are barely used in comparison with “be safe.”
What Does “Keep Safe” Mean?
“Keep safe” is a phrase that people say to you and usually applies when saying goodbye. It means they wish you well, and they want you to remain “safe” or healthy in life. Usually, there’s an implication that something dangerous might happen (i.e. you might be driving home).
The definition of “keep,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to have or continue to have in your possession.”
This definition makes it clear that “keep safe” implies we are continuing to remain “safe,” even if we are presented with difficulties or challenges.
Now, we’ll look at how to say “keep safe” in a sentence:
- Keep safe, everyone! It’s important that you look after yourself. I don’t want you getting into more danger.
- Please keep safe out there. I don’t want you getting into any more trouble.
- I need you to keep safe. It’s not worth the drama if you get caught out!
- Just keep safe, please. I don’t understand why you’re always chasing threats.
- I’m going to keep safe! Don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing.
What Does “Stay Safe” Mean?
“Stay safe” is nearly identical in usage to “keep safe.” We use it again to make sure someone remains “safe,” and the implication of “stay” shows that something might come up that might cause someone’s safety to be brought into question.
The definition of “stay,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “to continue doing something, or to continue to be in a particular state.”
As made clear from this definition, “keep,” and “safe” are interchangeable in usage.
We’ll look at how to say “stay safe” in a sentence to help you out:
- Stay safe out there. You never know when disaster might strike. Be on the lookout!
- Okay! Stay safe, everyone! It’s important that you know how to look after yourselves.
- I need you to stay safe! I can’t cope with the idea that you’ll get into trouble.
- Can you stay safe for me? I want you to promise me that. Otherwise, I won’t let you go.
- Stay safe! Don’t get into any trouble, and let me know when you’re home! Is that so much to ask?
What Does “Be Safe” Mean?
“Be safe” is a closing sentence that’s another way to say take care. It’s a common phrase for native speakers to use when they simply want to wish somebody well. It refers to the state of being “safe,” and there doesn’t have to be a fear that something bad might happen.
The definition of “stay,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “used to say something about a person, thing, or state, to show a permanent or temporary quality, state, job, etc.”
From this definition, it’s clear that “be” allows us to refer to a state of safety. This could apply whether someone is doing something dangerous or just living their normal life. That’s what makes this one the most appropriate phrase to use.
We’ll look at how to say “be safe” in a sentence to show you its effectiveness:
- Be safe, please! I don’t want to hear that you’ve got yourself into trouble again.
- Be safe, everyone! I’ll see you all again tomorrow. Class dismissed.
- Be safe, Jack. It was nice meeting you again. Let me know when you get home.
- Please be safe out there. You never know what’s going to happen.
- Just be safe! That’s all I can ask for, really. I’ll see you again soon, mate!
Has the Meaning Changed During COVID?
“Be safe,” and the other phrases have not changed meaning during COVID. Instead, they’ve become more effective because they’ve allowed people to use more appropriate email closers in professional settings.
It’s also become much more common to hear the combination of “be safe and stay healthy.” This has become one of the most popular email closers during COVID times.
Be Save vs. Be Safe: The Common Misspelling
“Be safe” is the only correct spelling. People can often misspell “safe” with “save,” but this is incorrect. “Be save” doesn’t mean anything because “save” is a verb. “Be” is also a verb, and we need an adjective (in this case, “safe”) to have it make grammatical sense.
We can’t combine two verbs together in this way because “be” does not modify “save” correctly. We have to attribute an adjective like “safe” after “be” when we want to refer to someone’s welfare or healthy state.
- Correct: Be safe, guys! I’ll see you all again after the weekend is over!
- Incorrect: Please be save out there. I know how dangerous it can get.
- Correct: Please be safe, everyone. I know we’ve had some issues, but I think you all deserve that.
- Incorrect: Be save! That’s all I ask for! I know you’re capable of looking after yourself.
Of course, if you’d rather not go through the hassle of trying to figure out which of the three phrases is best, you could always refer to one of these synonyms.
- Safe travels
- Take care
- Look after yourself
- Be good
- Be careful
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.