In the movie, Inception, 2010 film. EAMES was sitting down, and COBB approached to him. And said,

"You're on. You've got an hour. Now get us something useful."

I googled it and found this :


But, seems it doesn't make sense for this. Right?

I just try to guess and maybe it means "It's your turn." doesn't it?

Could you please give a few examples in order for me to understand quick?

Thank in advance.

2 Answers 2


In this case, since EAMES already works for COBB, I think the meaning is more along the lines of definition 5 or 5.1 at oxford dictionary.com's ON definition (thanks to MaulikV for the link):

(Of an actor) on stage; performing.
That's your cue. You're on.

(Of an employee) working; on duty.

I would lean more toward the "actor giving a performance" definition, as COBB's task is to trick someone into giving away information, but I think both senses are appropriate.

  • I still think it's about the challenge because of the reaction of EAMES. EAMES thought that the time allotted was supposed to be the whole night. Anyway, thanks for mentioning me in the most upvoted answer ;)
    – Maulik V
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 11:45
  • 1
    @MaulikV - No, you're wrong; the challenge is immaterial in this case. Imagine a rugby coach saying, "You're on. This is a hard kick – go make it." In that context, "You're on" has nothing to do with accepting a challenge (rather, it's saying, "It's your turn to go do something"). On the other hand, had the coach said, "This is a hard kick; I don't think you can make it," and the player responded, "You're on," then the two-word phrase would have an entirely different meaning (namely, "I'll accept your challenge, and I'll prove you wrong!").
    – J.R.
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:44
  • @MaulikV, if you review the context around the scene, you'll find that there is no challenge/acceptance involved; the lead-up to this is "get ready because you will need to do X, and you should have 7 or 8 hours to get it", then later "okay, it's time for you to do X [you're on] but you only have one hour".
    – Hellion
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:45

In this context, the meaning of on maps to this definition:

on (adverb) PERFORMING performing: Hurry up with the make-up – I'm on in ten minutes.

While this meaning is often used in television, radio, and the stage, it could also be used during a con scam (as in the movie), or even in marketing.

At an expo, for example, one of my associates might be getting ready to demo our product, and I might say:

Okay, you're on. Look sharp; be confident.

Or perhaps my daughter is giving a speech:

You're on tomorrow. Practice one more time, and then get a good night's rest.

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