Go with the flow

The idiom go with the flow may not be as old as you think, but the idea that it is based on is very old. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom go with the flow, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To go with the flow means to accept a situation and lean into it, to not fight the inevitable, to cooperate and see where a situation will take you. Someone who decides to go with the flow does not make trouble or try to change things, he does not take a leadership role but instead follows the lead of others. The idiom go with the flow did not come into use until the latter half of the twentieth century, but the idea of go with the flow is much older. William Shakespeare invokes the idea in his play, Julius Caesar, performed in 1599: “On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Others ascribe the imagery to Marcus Aurelius, who lived in the second century: “Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” Related phrases are goes with the flow, went with the flow, has gone with the flow, going with the flow.


“If I’m trying to practice and I get really nervous I just say ‘go with the flow’ and i keep trying and trying,” Wyatt said. (Spectrum News)

“I’m the kind of guy that just goes with the flow … A lot of times when you make these important plans they just fall through, so I learned years ago to go with the flow and life will take you where you belong.” (The Columbus Telegram)

And in Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney is pressuring several major institutions to go with the flow and raise wages for their workers, or face losing a major water bill discount. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Leave a Comment