Not unattractive but getting on.

to get on means: get along to have a good relationship.1

Does it mean:

she is attractive but she doesn't set along to have a good relationship?

The context of the phrase is:

The writer herself is rather austere looking. Dark hair pulled back from her face in a tight ponytail. Strong bones. No-nonsense skirt and sweater, equally no-nonsense eyeglasses. She looks like she might make a competent nurse. The only flourish is a pretty scarf around her neck. Not unattractive but getting on. Maybe pushing forty. Lauren wonders idly about the book she’s writing.

  • 1
    I think you could have found this answer for yourself by looking for corroborating info in the passage itself and by reading through the various possibilities in a dictionary, such as dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/get-on But perhaps you did not understand pushing forty?
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 12:51
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Definitely! But now I do understand it means "to be almost forty".
    – Peace
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 13:03
  • 1
    pushing forty is a colloquialism. It's somewhat rough-and-tough, like the language you might read in a detective novel. A dame walks into my office. She's a tall drink of water. Pushing forty. It's in the same register as no-nonsense but a little harder hitting than getting on, which is euphemistic.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 13:12
  • One of the things I tell my students is that writers, especially fiction writers, take a lot of liberties with the language. Their use of it is often artful and quite uncommon, and so-called rules are frequently broken. For students trying to learn English, this is quite confusing, especially if the basics have not been mastered. If you wish to read fiction (and why not) to learn, I suggest using graded readers, in which the complexity and artfulness of language is reduced to more standardized and simple forms. It is also much closer to the ways in which people commonly speak English. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 8:01
  • While I generally agree with you, @UbuEnglish, there is no liberty taken here. Getting on in this sense is an everyday idiom.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 16:40

2 Answers 2


What's the meaning of "Not unattractive but getting on"?

The clue to this mystery is hidden in the following sentence. "Maybe pushing forty." So, the expression "getting on" is an abbreviation for "getting on in years".


It means that she is getting older and is still attractive (not unattractive). It is descriptive and is used adjectivally. This is an appropriation of the phrasal verb to get on, which generally means to advance in some way, where the verb takes the participle form and functions as a phrasal adjective.

Get on, in this sentence does not mean to relate easily, although it could take this meaning in another context. I think that in British English to get on can mean to relate easily but in American English we usually use the phrasal verb to get along for this meaning.

You might hear it used as a verb in sentences like, they get on quite well or as an adjective in, they are getting on quite well.

They get on quite well. S|V|adverbial complement

They are getting on quite well. S|V(linking verb)|SC(subject complement)

How these phrases are interpreted depends on the logic of the relations they form with other word and phrases. She's getting on in years vs she;s getting on with him - the logical interpretation of each should be obvious.

  • Careful, @Ubu English: I don't believe that the phrasal verb to get on ever has that meaning. It's a meaning of the phrasal adjective getting on.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 16:38
  • Quite right Colin - thanks. I've updated the answer. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 7:53

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