Go with the Flow – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Let’s talk about the common phrase go with the flow. What does it really mean? What flow are we going with and why? I’ll discuss the true meaning behind this popular idiom and show you how to use it in a sentence with a few examples. Let’s go!

Go with the Flow Meaning Explained

Go with the Flow Origin Meaning

When someone says “go with the flow,” they mean they want you to accept a situation and just “go with it” rather than trying to alter or control it. It’s supposed to promote the idea that you should be flexible and slightly adaptable to certain things.

For me, that’s so hard because I’m an admitted control freak. I can’t always go with the flow because it makes my brain hurt sometimes. But I know when to pick my battles, especially when it comes to parenting, and sometimes I just have to let things play out and accept the outcome.

Other Tenses to Use

You can use the phrase go with the flow in a few different tenses, depending on the context.

  1. Going with the flow: This is what the present participle form looks like and can be used when the action is ongoing, like, “I am going with the flow.”
  2. Gone with the flow: This is the past participle form and should be used in perfect tenses. “They’ve gone with the flow.”

Go with the Flow Origin and Etymology

To find the root of the phrase, we need to go way back to the 2nd century and take a look at the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He once wrote something about going with the flow of happiness because things had a tendency to flow naturally, and it was better to accept it than to try and change society. You can find more about it in his writing titled “The Meditations.”

It’s also found in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” where Brutus says, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.”

Synonyms for Go with the Flow

  • Roll with the punches
  • Play it by ear
  • Take things as they come
  • Follow the crowd
  • Swim with the tide
  • Just go with it

Go with the Flow Examples in a Sentence

Go with the Flow Origin Meaning 1
  • Even though there were some unexpected changes, the team just decided to go with the flow and adapt to the new circumstances so they could keep playing.
  • When you’re visiting different cultures, it’s a good idea to go with the flow and respect local customs and traditions.
  • I’ve always been rather independent, but in this case, I decided to go with the flow and follow my friends’ good advice.
  • During his many travels, David learned the art of going with the flow and embracing whatever adventures came his way.

Just Go with the Flow

When we understand idioms like this deeper, we find even more ways to use them! Now that you’ve got all the details on the phrase go with the flow, see how you can incorporate it into conversations.