Going On: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
June 2, 2024

The phrase "going on" is a versatile idiom commonly used in everyday language. Essentially, it can signify the continuation of an action, the passage of time, or subtly suggest that someone is behaving in a specific way. This two-word phrase encapsulates a broad range of meanings, demonstrating the richness and complexity of our language.

In short:

"Going on" can mean continuing an action, the passage of time, or describing behavior.

What Does "Going On" Mean?

The idiom "going on" is used in several contexts, each adding a layer of meaning depending on the situation.

Let's break down the different ways this phrase can be interpreted:

  • Continuation of an action: This is perhaps the most straightforward interpretation. It suggests that something is currently happening or proceeding.
  • Passage of time: "Going on" can also refer to how much time has passed. For example, when someone says, "It's going on five years since we last met," they mean nearly five years have passed.
  • Describing behavior: In a more figurative sense, "going on" can describe someone's behavior, especially if it's a bit exaggerated or noteworthy. Saying someone is "going on" about something implies they're talking extensively or fussily about it.

Where Does "Going On" Come From?

While the exact origin of the idiom "going on" is unclear, it likely emerged from the natural use of common words over centuries. We can find examples as far back as the 16th century, where it was used to mean "continuing" or "passing" (referring to time). Its meaning expanded to include ongoing actions or behaviors. The phrase's long history – seen in works like Charles Dickens' novels – demonstrates how simple phrases can evolve into versatile and expressive idioms within a language.

10 Examples of "Going On" in Sentences

Understanding how "going on" is used in various sentences can help clarify its meaning.

Here are ten examples demonstrating different uses of the idiom:

  • She's been going on about her vacation plans for weeks now.
  • The meeting has been going on for over two hours.
  • He's going on 50, but he looks much younger.
  • This construction has been going on since last summer; I can't wait until all the noise is over.
  • They kept going on with the party despite the late hour, which riled up their neighbors.
  • She's just going on with her work as if nothing happened.
  • The debate about this issue has been going on for decades.
  • He's always going on about the past; I wish he would just let it go.
  • The series is going on its third season this year, but the plot hasn't really moved forward.
  • They are going on a trip next week.

Examples of "Going On" in Pop Culture

The idiom's presence in pop culture is undeniable, serving as a linguistic bridge between the creators' intentions and the audience's perceptions.

Here are some notable examples:

  • Marvin Gaye's album "What's Going On" is the eleventh studio album by the American soul singer. Released on May 21, 1971, by Motown Records, it is a landmark recording in the genre of soul music, addressing themes of war, poverty, and environmental issues.
  • The song "My Life Is Going On" by Cecilia Krull is the main theme from the original TV series "La Casa De Papel" (Money Heist). Released in 2019, this song captures the emotional and dramatic essence of the series, which revolves around a group of robbers and their heists.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah's article "Young and dyslexic? You've got it going on" in The Guardian discusses the creative advantages and strengths of dyslexic children. Zephaniah shares insights into how dyslexia, often viewed as a limitation, can actually be a source of creativity and unique problem-solving skills.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Going On"

Exploring different ways to express the idea of "going on" can enrich our language and help us find the right tone for various contexts.

Here are some synonyms and phrases that convey similar meanings:

  • Continuing: Emphasizes the ongoing nature of an action or situation.
  • Proceeding: Focuses on the forward movement or progress of something.
  • Happening: A general term for events or actions that are taking place.
  • Carrying on: Similar to "going on," it suggests persistence or endurance despite challenges.
  • Underway: Indicates that something has started and is currently in progress.
  • Progressing: Highlights the advancement or development of a situation or action.
  • Ongoing: Describes something that is currently happening and is expected to continue.
  • Unfolding: Used to describe events or situations that are revealing themselves over time.
  • Persisting: Suggests a continuation, especially in the face of opposition or difficulty.
  • In progress: A neutral term that simply states something is not yet complete.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Going On"

  • What does "going on" mean?

"Going on" can refer to the continuation of an action, the passage of time, or describing someone's behavior, especially when it's extensive or exaggerated.

  • Where did the idiom "going on" originate from?

The exact origin is unclear, but it has been in use for centuries, evolving over time to encompass a range of meanings related to time, action, and behavior.

  • Can "going on" be used in formal writing?

Yes, "going on" can be used in formal writing, but its appropriateness depends on the context and the tone you wish to convey.

  • Is "going on" more commonly used in British or American English?

"Going on" is widely used in both British and American English without significant difference in usage or meaning.

  • How can "going on" be replaced in a sentence without changing its meaning?

Depending on the context, "continuing," "proceeding," "happening," or "carrying on" can replace "going on" without altering the sentence's meaning significantly.

  • What are some common mistakes people make when using "going on"?

One common mistake is using "going on" inappropriately for situations that do not involve action, time, or behavior, which can lead to confusion.

  • Can "going on" be used in the past tense?

Yes, "going on" can be used in past tense to describe actions, events, or behaviors that were ongoing in the past.

  • Does "going on" have different meanings in different contexts?

Absolutely, "going on" can mean the continuation of an action, the passage of time, or a way to describe behavior, depending on the context.

  • How does "going on" compare to "ongoing"?

"Going on" often implies an action or event that is currently happening and may stop, whereas "ongoing" suggests a continuous or indefinite duration.

  • Are there any idioms similar to "going on"?

Yes, idioms like "carrying on," "keeping on," and "pressing on" share similar meanings of persistence and continuation.

Final Thoughts About "Going On"

The idiom "going on" is a versatile phrase that enriches the English language by offering a concise way to express continuation, the passage of time, or describe behavior. Its ability to adapt to various contexts makes it a valuable tool in both spoken and written communication.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • The meaning of "going on" can vary depending on the context, covering everything from ongoing actions to the passage of time and specific behaviors.
  • Although its origins are not precisely known, it has been part of the English language for centuries, demonstrating the evolving nature of language.
  • "Going on" is used in both formal and informal settings, making it a flexible choice for different types of communication.
  • Many synonyms and related phrases can be used in place of "going on," each adding its own nuance to the conversation.
  • Understanding how to use "going on" correctly can enhance clarity and effectiveness in communication, whether in writing or speech.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

U.S Dictionary is the premier dictionary about the English language as used in the United States of America.
Copyright © 2024 - U.S. Dictionary
Privacy Policy