I know it seems to be a simple answer but that's why I'm asking what should be, not what is.

Going out is composed of two words, obviously. Each of these has its opposite. So if I were to take the opposite of the phrasal verb, it could be any of these three:

  1. Going in (in being the opposite of out)
  2. Coming out (Coming being the opposite of Going)
  3. Coming in (Taking the opposites of each word)

Each of these depends on the position of the speaker. Going out and coming out would be the same to two different people if one is inside a room and the othe outside. Similar explanation applies to going in and coming in. In a sense, both pairs are the synonyms and antonyms.

So what should be the right answer?

  • 1
    You probly need to read The Deixis Lectures, especially Number 5, Coming and Going. These are not simple words in English. – John Lawler Feb 18 '15 at 3:23
  • 2
    Since semantic "opposites" are not mathematical equations, there is no right answer to the question. In is not always the "opposite" of out. Coming in and going out can refer to exactly the same action, depending on the speaker's frame of reference: Mom saw Jason coming in to the kitchen, just as Dad saw Jason going out of the dining room. An antonym is an opposite name, but what is the opposite of your moniker: afaolek? Is it keloafa? Not exactly. – ScotM Feb 18 '15 at 3:33
  • "Out going" ... – Greg Lee Feb 18 '15 at 5:45

The answer to your question depends on what "going out" means as a single entity. In its most common usage, it means "leaving the house, especially for an evening's entertainment." In that sense, its opposite is "staying in." If you use "going out" to mean something else, then its opposite becomes whatever is the opposite of that sense of the two words taken together. For example, if you're talking about the light bulb "going out," then the opposite is "staying on." If it means "dating someone," the opposite is "breaking up."

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  • The opposite of a lightbulb going out might be "going on" or "coming on" as well. And of course, in general, OP's going in and coming in are valid opposites too. – Jim Feb 18 '15 at 3:13

I think you are confusing the meaning of the individual words going and out with the meaning of the phrase, which, as has been said, depends on context. The opposite of The fire is going out. would not be The fire is coming in. The phrase has too many contextual variables for a single answer:-

The candle is going out. I am going out with Bob. That fashion is going out. I'm not going out tonight, it's too cold

You cannot simply replace each word with its antonym in this sort of phrasal verb.

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It should be coming in, from come in; made famous by John Le Carre's international bestseller The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

"But no, I was out for stars: I would not come in. I meant not even if asked, and I hadn't been." Robert Frost


"When you go out, check the look of the sky; when you come in, check the looks on people's faces."

"Things come in kinds; people come in groups."

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The opposite of going is not always coming; in your situation I would say it is staying.

If I'm not going out then I'm probably 'staying in'.

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  • That creates even more ambiguity, right? staying in, staying out? – afaolek Feb 18 '15 at 3:09

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