Kindly let me know the meaning of this sentence (taken from this article):

We went back and forth, but there was nothing we could do.

  • 3
    What is it exactly that you don't understand? – Barrie England Aug 14 '12 at 9:14
  • 4
    Possibly the source – Henry Aug 14 '12 at 9:15
  • 3
    What a great example of why it's so critical to include the context! (I'm so tired of going back and forth on this...). Anyhow, +1 to Henry for the detective work, -1 to the O.P. for asking such a question sans the source or the context. – J.R. Aug 14 '12 at 9:27
  • I've added the source to the question. I'd say it's a valid question now. However, it is still very localised. – Urbycoz Aug 14 '12 at 10:25

In a general sense, "going back and forth" expresses the give and take of a negotiation or arbitration process. We suggested this and they countered that, and so we "went back and forth".

In casual speech, however, it often means simply "some events transpired, and I won't bore you with the details." As an example, "I went to the driver's license office to get my license, and after two hours of going back and forth I finally got it." This statement doesn't express that I actually negotiated an agreement to get my license, it merely expresses that I navigated the process to get it.

  • Great example! And sometimes that can include some more literal back-and-forth movement, too! As in, I went back to the house to get the right paperwork... – J.R. Aug 14 '12 at 16:53

It is actually not clear what it means. It could mean that they physically traveled between two positions several times. It could mean that they argued over what to do. It could mean that they changed their minds about what to do several times. There is not enough context to figure out what it means.

My best guess is that it means that they actively worked on obtaining permission to perform the transplant from the family, discussing every aspect, using different members of the team, and so on. But ultimately, the process just took too long and they were unable to obtain permission while there was still time.

  • I'd say there is some odd wording at various places in the article. – Urbycoz Aug 14 '12 at 10:35

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