Back when I was a student, I can recall my nonnative English teachers -- after discussing a certain word, or phrase, or passage from a text with the class -- saying for me or some other guy to please "carry on" (with the reading).

Now, what I wish you could tell is if "to carry on" has any currency in AE usage in the sense "to proceed with something after a stop"? Or is this usage typically BE, and an American somehow would be more likely to say instead something like "you may (or can) go ahead", "you can go on", or "you can proceed" with a certain task?

If indeed "carry on" is sort of more typical of BE than AE in this sense, how do Americans usually use that expression?





  • 2
    Carry on is certainly BE, but I don't know whether it has any currency in the US as well. If it has, it's less often heard than go ahead, which does have some currency in the UK too, but not as much as in the US. Mar 23, 2014 at 1:54
  • When you write AE, you mean AmE? I assume so from the context anyway. One could use carry on in this like this in AmE, but continue or one of the other variants you reference would be more common
    – Mike
    May 25, 2014 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


In American English (well, American Northeast English, anyway), "carry on" has a slightly formal flavor; it'd be a bit more natural in a military setting ("Very good. Carry on, soldier.") or when one wants to jokingly invoke that kind of authoritative tone. "Go ahead" would be more common as an informal permission/suggestion to proceed, "go on" would more often be a request to continue ("please go on, what happened next?")

But this is subtle enough shadings of meaning that intonation could easily shift their relative positions.

  • 1
    In fact, I understand that in the U.S. Navy, the expression "Carry on" is often used by superior officers to sailors who have stopped working at whatever task they were doing in order to salute them.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 20, 2015 at 8:48

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