As a Spanish employee of a German multinational company, I have always cringed at my German colleagues’ tendency to give ‘ongoing’ a predicative use, e.g. ‘The meeting is ongoing’. I was sure that this was at least poor style, and very likely ungrammatical, and that ‘ongoing’ only worked as an attribute (e.g. ‘The ongoing meeting’).
However, a couple of years ago I began to hear American fellow workers (English native speakers) occasionally use ‘ongoing’ in the same ear-grating way. Is this just a case of contagion out of empathy with the German fellow employees? Or is it the result of a recent trend in the English language? Has it perhaps always been correct?
The earliest predicative uses of ongoing in the Corpus of Historical American English are from the 1970’s. One example:
" The power outages are ongoing, " said Jan Hickman of Lilco last
night. " The rain, is continuing. The temperature continues to drop.
(New York Times: (Features): 19780115)
Attributive uses start around 1950.
These new ideas were introduced and integrated into his ongoing
research program in the first of these atomist papers, on compounds of
nitrogen. ( Chemical Atomism in the Nineteenth Century: From Dalton to Cannizzaro, Alan J. Rocke, 1948)
There are plenty of examples of the predicative use in high-quality publications from the later part of the 20th century.
Most of the seventy American projects were completed during the austral summer, when the temperatures became bearable and when the sun shone twenty-four hours a day, but a few are ongoing and will require a year’s stay on the continent for a handful of American scientists, who are " wintering-over " on the Antarctic at this time.(Saturday Evening Post: Jan/Feb1976, Vol. 248 Issue 1, p62-73, 5p, 4 color)
Aside from these, there are other industries in which talks are ongoing, including semiconductors and construction. (Christian Science Monitor: 19891213: THE WORLD; Pg. 1)
The prohibition of citizen suits under RCRA (a) (1) (B) where a CERCLA
response is ongoing, and lack of corresponding prohibition for
citizen suits under RCRA (a) (1) (A), indicates Congress’s intent that
a CERCLA response would not bar an enforcement action under RCRA’s (a)
(1) (A) provision. ( Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review: Fall94, Vol. 22 Issue 1, p49, 39p)
The Corpus of US Supreme Court opinions has predicative uses starting in the early 80’s.
This essay is analytically flawed because it overlooks the limitations
on equitable discretion that apply in cases in which public interests
are implicated and the defendant’s violation 456 U.S. 305, 323 of the
law is ongoing. ( WEINBERGER v. ROMERO-BARCELO, 1982)
Neither the District Court nor the Court of Appeals found, however,
that petitioners’ share presently allows them to charge monopoly
prices; to the contrary, respondents contend that the conspiracy is
ongoing – that petitioners are still artificially depressing the
market price in order to drive Zenith out of the market. (MATSUSHITA
ELEC. INDUSTRIAL CO. v. ZENITH RADIO, 1986)
The predicative use starts popping up in the HANSARD corpus (British Parliament) in the 70’s.
Although the review is ongoing, we seem to be as far away from a
proper discussion in this House of an integrated transport policy as
before: ( Mr_Phillip_Whitehead,
The predicative use seems to be increasing in popularity with large increases in use for each of the last few decades. For example, there are 22, 38, 116, and 306 hits for ‘BE ongoing’ respectively for the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s in the HANSARD corpus.