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Maintain vs. Sustain: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 5, 2024
Maintain refers to keep something in its current state or condition. Sustain refers to support, endure, or keep going over a period of time.

Key Differences

Maintain implies keeping something in its existing state or condition, like maintaining a garden. Sustain suggests continuing support over time, like sustaining interest in a hobby.
The act of maintaining often involves regular care or upkeep, as in maintaining a vehicle. To sustain, however, means to provide what is needed for something to exist, continue, or be prolonged, like sustaining energy levels.
Maintenance can be seen as a more passive act of preserving the status quo. Sustaining, in contrast, implies an active process of providing ongoing support or endurance.
Maintain can also mean to assert or declare something in argument, whereas sustain in a legal context means to uphold or affirm a decision or argument.
In a broader sense, maintain can refer to keeping up relationships or conditions, like maintaining friendships. Sustain can relate to enduring under challenging conditions, like sustaining hope during difficult times.

Comparison Chart


Keeping something in its current state
Providing support over time

Context of Use

Regular care or upkeep
Continuation and endurance

Nature of Action

Preserving status quo
Providing ongoing support

Additional Meanings

To assert in an argument
To endure under challenges

Example Usage

Maintaining a machine
Sustaining effort or energy

Maintain and Sustain Definitions


To continue or preserve at the same level.
He struggled to maintain his concentration during the lecture.


To support, nourish, or keep up over a period.
A balanced diet is necessary to sustain good health.


To assert or uphold.
She maintained her innocence throughout the trial.


To experience or suffer, especially an injury.
He sustained a knee injury during the game.


To provide for, to supply with necessities.
The program is designed to maintain children with necessary school supplies.


To endure, withstand, or bear up under.
The bridge was designed to sustain heavy loads.


To keep up a relationship or condition.
Maintaining good relationships with colleagues is essential for teamwork.


To keep a process or activity going.
It's challenging to sustain interest in a project for a long time.


To keep something in good condition.
It's important to regularly maintain your car for its longevity.


To uphold, affirm, or confirm.
The judge sustained the lawyer's objection.


To keep up or carry on; continue
Maintain good relations.


To keep in existence; maintain, continue, or prolong
Sustain an effort.


To keep up (a joke or assumed role, for example) competently.


What does it mean to maintain a house?

Maintaining a house involves regular care and repairs to keep it in good condition.

How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves consistent habits like a balanced diet and exercise.

What does it mean to maintain your composure?

Maintaining composure means keeping calm and controlled in a situation.

What is an example of sustaining something?

Sustaining enthusiasm in a long-term project is an example.

Can a person sustain themselves with a hobby?

Yes, if the hobby provides emotional or financial support over time.

Can sustain be used in a legal context?

Yes, in law, to sustain a claim means to uphold it.

Is maintaining a car similar to sustaining it?

Maintaining a car is about keeping it in good condition, while sustaining it would mean ensuring its continued function over time.

Can you maintain a relationship?

Yes, maintaining a relationship involves keeping it in a healthy, stable state.

What does it mean to sustain an injury?

To sustain an injury means to suffer or experience it.

How does a business sustain growth?

A business sustains growth by continually adapting and supporting expansion strategies.

Can you sustain a conversation?

Yes, sustaining a conversation means keeping it going.

How do economies sustain development?

Economies sustain development by ongoing investment and innovation.

Can sustain be used in environmental contexts?

Yes, like sustaining biodiversity or natural resources.

Can you maintain a budget?

Yes, by regularly managing and adjusting expenses to fit the budget.

What's an example of maintaining a garden?

Regular watering and weeding to keep a garden healthy.

What's the difference in maintaining vs. sustaining health?

Maintaining health is keeping it at a current level; sustaining health is about long-term support.

Is maintenance always physical?

No, maintenance can also be emotional or intellectual, like maintaining a belief.

What does it mean to sustain effort?

To continue applying effort over a period of time.

How do you maintain a skill?

By practicing regularly to keep the skill sharp.

Can maintain have legal implications?

Yes, in law, maintaining a claim means asserting it.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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