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He went on to learn English and French.

What's the meaning of this sentence?

It looks simple at a glance but can't get the meaning of it.

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    Went on can be replaced by proceeded. If that isn't clear try Afterwards he learnt English and French.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 13 at 16:39
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    It does look quite simple, which part of it do you have difficulty with. For example do you understand "English" to mean "the English language", not "English people". Or do you have difficulty with the verb "went on"
    – James K
    Sep 13 at 22:38

2 Answers 2

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This expression has a basic meaning and a specific nuance.

The simple meaning is "and then", indicating this happened after what was mentioned before. For your sentence, it might have a context like:

After completing his international business degree, he went on to learn English and French.

The nuance is that it's almost always used to describe further or increasing success. So while these examples are grammatically correct, the semantics are wrong:

He spent four years as the Minister for Overseas Development, then went on to manage coach a high school football team.

Managing a high school football team is clearly a step down from such a high government position, so it's semantically incorrect.

She started out stealing from her parents, and went on to rob banks to fund her drug habit.

Although robbing banks is bigger than stealing from parents, as long as we consider robbing banks to buy drugs not to represent success, the use of "went on to" sounds very odd.

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He had already done a few things and then he proceeded to learn English and French.

"Go on to" is used to denote doing something after you have done something else.

An example:

Rasmus is a renowned polyglot. He could speak Italian, Polish and German by the time he turned 7. He went on to learn English and French.

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