One of my workshop participants emailed me the following question:

We Filipinos usually use the phrase “we’ll go ahead” when saying goodbye or we say mauna na kami or alis na kami. I overheard an American respond to the phrase and commented that this phrase was incomplete. He replied, “Go ahead where?” Is the phrase really grammatically wrong?

Great question, right?

The phrase is elliptical, i.e., something is omitted “from the speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.” When we use the phrase when bidding goodbye, we do not mean we are going ahead to another place. It means “We will go ahead of you.”

Perhaps our use is very cultural. Filipino forms of courtesy prompt us to allow another person to always go first. So when we sayMauna na kami (translated rather loosely to We’ll go ahead), we are actually asking permission.

I doubt if our use of the phrase is incorrect. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines the noun go-ahead as “permission to proceed” and gives us this example: “The government had given the go-ahead for the power station.”

Which means we are not, if at all, so far off the mark. :)

Source: The meaning of elliptical is taken from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Photo credit: Tourdaexperiencia


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