Meaning of “go on” in the English Dictionary

"go on" in British English

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go on

phrasal verb with go uk /ɡəʊ/ us /ɡoʊ/ verb present participle going, past tense went, past participle gone


B1 to happen:

I'm sure we never hear about a lot of what goes on in government.
This war has been going on for years.

More examples

  • He likes to know what's going on.
  • Hello, hello. What's going on here then?
  • The meeting was going on in the room next door.
  • The matches were going on simultaneously.
  • It's hard to know what goes on behind my back.


B1 to continue:

Please go on with what you're doing and don't let us interrupt you.
[ + -ing verb ] We really can't go on living like this - we'll have to find a bigger house.
If you go on (= continue behaving) like this, you won't have any friends left at all.

to move to the next thing or stage:

[ + to infinitive ] She admitted her company's responsibility for the disaster and went on to explain how compensation would be paid to the victims.
What proportion of people who are HIV-positive go on to develop (= later develop) AIDS?

More examples

  • The award ceremony goes on for another hour.
  • Go on for another 50 metres until you come to the traffic lights.
  • We can't go on until we've fixed the puncture.
  • The second chapter went on to describe his early career.
  • If you can't answer a question, go on to the next one.


to start operating:

The spotlights go on automatically when an intruder is detected in the garden.
When does the heating go on?

More examples

  • I didn't hear the central heating go on.
  • The lights go on automatically at six o'clock.
  • I flicked the switch but it didn't go on.
  • The street lights go on at about three o'clock in winter.
  • I don't think the heating went on this morning.


B2 to start talking again after a pause:

She paused to have a sip of coffee and then went on with her account of the accident.
[ + speech ] "What I want more than anything else," he went on, "is a house in the country with a large garden for the children to play in."

informal something that you say to encourage someone to say or do something:

Go on, what happened next?

More examples

  • He took a sip of coffee and went on with his story.
  • After stopping to clear his throat the politician went on with his speech.
  • Go on, tell me more.


C2 to talk in an annoying way about something for a long time:

He went on and on until I finally interrupted him and told him I had to go.
I just wish he'd stop going on about how brilliant his daughter is." "Yes, he does go on (a bit), doesn't he?"
I wish you'd stop going on at me (= criticizing me repeatedly) about my haircut.

More examples

  • I heard you the first time, you don't need to go on about it.
  • He tends to go on a bit in his lectures.
  • The after-dinner speaker went on a bit.
  • He's always going on about how much money he earns.


used when encouraging someone to do something:

Go on, have another drink.
"I don't really feel like seeing a film tonight." "Oh go on. We haven't been to the cinema for ages."

More examples

  • Go on, take a day off work. You deserve it.
  • Please can we get a kitten? Oh go on.
  • Go on, have another glass of wine.
  • Wear the low-cut blouse with your pink shorts - go on, I dare you!
  • Have another slice of cake - go on, be a devil!

(Definition of “go on” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"go on" in American English

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go on

phrasal verb with go us /ɡoʊ/ verb present tense goes, present participle going, past tense went /went/ , past participle gone /ɡɔn, ɡɑn/

to continue:

I won’t go on working in this job forever.
Go on, tell me what happened next.
He could go on and on (= continue talking for a long time) about his adventures.

(Definition of “go on” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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