Go With the Flow – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the phrase 'go with the flow' somewhere on the internet or in a text and would like to know more about what the saying could mean? When someone says that it's time to 'go with the flow' it means that the situation could be impossible to influence or change. This post unpacks the origin and meaning of the saying.


'Go with the flow' is a common figurative phrase that is used in the English language.

When someone says that they should or are going to 'go with the flow' then the phrase means the same as 'come what may' or 'c'est la vie'.

The phrase 'go with the flow' has positive implications and is often said as a motivational phrase to (or about) someone.

The phrase implies that the speaker (or subject) will see what happens rather than worry about the outcome of the situation.

As a phrase used for positive motivation or enforcement, it implies that someone cannot determine (though is positive about) what might lie ahead.

Someone can use the phrase as a carefree statement or answer to something, or as part of a sentence. The context of 'going with the flow' is given by the rest of the sentence or the other speakers in the conversation.

When someone does 'not go with the flow' then the phrase implies that a person does not feel carefree or positive about the described situation.

Example Usage

“I thought we were just going to go with the flow, and suddenly he had his pants off. Things were not going as well as I thought, so I went home.”

“Go with the flow at work tomorrow and just see what happens. Pretend you read the manual and just nod when someone asks you a question that sounds important.”

“Go with the flow and take your daughter to work tomorrow. It's about time she finds out that her mom works at the slaughterhouse.”

“I always thought that it was easy to go with the flow, but then I found out that you really shouldn't have this attitude when you go skydiving.”


According to most online language resources (including etymonline.com), the phrase 'go with the flow' and its derivatives has been around for a long time – and the saying could have originated with the work of philosopher Marcus Aurelius.

After the phrase was used in the philosopher's work, it was translated into English and likely achieved popularity as a saying with the advent of the printing press.

The phrase has always been used as a figurative phrase, and soon became part of mainstream dictionaries.

The website Urban Dictionary first lists the phrase in 2018, even though much earlier common use of the saying is documented.

Phrases Similar to Go With the Flow

  • Choose life

Phrases Opposite to Go With the Flow

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Go with the flow
  • Going with the flow

Ways People May Say Go With the Flow Incorrectly

There are several correct ways in which someone can use the saying 'go with the flow' in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the phrase when it is said.

'Go with the flow' is an expression that has a carefree and motivational implication, though it can make no sense in some languages when it is translated as a saying.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Go With the Flow

There are several acceptable ways in which someone can use the phrase 'go with the flow' as a sentence.

The phrase 'go with the flow' can also be used as 'going with the flow', or it can be said as 'to go with the flow' in conversation.

Someone who 'goes with the flow' cannot change the situation, but assumes that the outcome will be positive.

The opposite of the phrase is 'not going with the flow', which implies the opposite meaning.

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