LINGUIST List 15.970

Mon Mar 22 2004

Sum: English 'Go Ahead'

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Emma Pavey, use of 'go ahead' in spoken English

Message 1: use of 'go ahead' in spoken English

Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 06:23:49 -0500 (EST)
From: Emma Pavey <>
Subject: use of 'go ahead' in spoken English


This summary is in response to a message posted several weeks ago
(Linguist 15.562) regarding the use of 'go ahead' in spoken
English. Many apologies for the delay in posting a summary.

I'd particularly like to thank Patrick Hanks, Harold Schiffman, Tivoli
Majors, J L Speranza, Bruce Despain and Betsy Evans for their replies.

Respondents offered categorizations of uses of 'go ahead'. Most of
these include a use involving permission/softening of a
command/politeness (e.g. the rest of you can go ahead and stay
seated). Tivoli Majors added the use of 'go ahead' in an almost
opposite sense, as part of a dare: 'Go ahead and fire me'. She also
adds a choice between two courses of action. e.g. I'll go ahead a stop
there�Euro�but I could go on.

Patrick Hanks provided the following categorization
1. [[Activity | Plan]] go ahead 
2. [[Person | Institution]] go ahead
2.1 [[Person | Institution]] go ahead and [V]
2.2 [[Person | Institution]] go ahead {with [[Activity | Plan]]}
3. [[HumanGroup �ompetitor]] go ahead (Domain: sports journalism)
4. INTERPERSONAL: IMPERATIVE/go ahead y"nvitation to interlocutor to
door say whatever he or she was intending to do or say.

Patrick Hanks, Harold Schiffman and JL Speranza note the figurative
sense of the expression; it is often simply used as a
'filler'. Patrick Hanks observes that it is almost always temporal,
involving an action, and needs to be modified to work in a
spaciotemporal sense: 'go on ahead�Euro�' (Hanks' work on light and
phrasal verbs is based within the 'Corpus Pattern Analysis' project
based at Brandeis University, linking meaning and use by building an
inventory of semantically motivated syntagmatic patterns for each verb
in English).

Finally, Betsy Evans pointed me to a recent movie, Office Space, where
a character uses the phrase a lot. This is reflected in others'
observations that the phrase is common in bureaucratic and
office-related environments.

Thanks for the replies, sorry again for the delay. 

Emma Pavey

Subject-Language: English; Code: ENG 
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue