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 fuller text 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? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 11 '18 at 12:51
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Definitely! But now I do understand it means "to be almost forty". – Peace Aug 11 '18 at 13:03
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    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. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 11 '18 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. – Ubu English Aug 15 '18 at 8:01

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). This is one of the interpretations of the phrasal verb to get on, generally it means to advance in some way. 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.

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