by Akeem Lasisi, modified by Flying Colours Crew

The two words look and sound alike, so much that they tend to compete for one’s senses in relevant situations. But like many other homonyms (words that sound or are spelt the same but have different meanings), they are meant for different contexts. Unfortunately, a lot of people either interchange them at will or they outright make wrong choices where required. Remember, ‘outright’, not ‘outrightly’ because there is no English word like that. Just as there is nothing like ‘fastly’! (Read ‘To Barb’ Or ‘Cut Your Hair’?)


Consider these:


Femi Falana was still an … lawyer when he met his wife.


(a)       upcoming (b) up-and-coming (c) incoming (d) up but coming


The school is preparing for the … Founder’s Day.


(a)       oncoming (b) incoming (c) upcoming (d) up-and-coming


The major crisis arises when some people want to refer to a young or emerging talent or professional who has the potential to do well. He or she can be a lawyer, plumber, singer, actor or even a footballer.  They then describe him or her as an upcoming lawyer, upcoming artiste etc. As far as they are concerned, since the guy is rising and growing, then he is simply coming up. Hence, they call him an upcoming worker or artiste.

This is wrong because ‘upcoming’ has an entirely different meaning and can hardly be used to refer to a person. Unfortunately, many users, including journalists, fall into the trap when they have to write or speak about talents who are emerging.

The adjective, upcoming, does not mean ‘rising’ or ‘budding’. It means coming soon or about to happen. Its synonyms include forthcoming, imminent, impending and approaching. This indicates that it is meant to qualify activities or schedules – not human beings. It goes with events, which can be a party, conference, meeting, competition or religious service:


Juliet doesn’t read much, but she is preparing hard for the upcoming fashion parade.

The Lagos State Government has published a list of upcoming events.


In a situation where you want to describe the young man that is doing so well that the sky is his limit, who is showing great potential to soon hit the limelight, the word required is up-and-coming. This is also an adjective but it describes young talents, professionals and others who are demonstrating compelling traits pointing to the fact that they are destined for the top. Its synonyms thus include rising, promising, soaring, industrious and ambitious.

The up-and-coming engineer studied at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

Ali Baba likes to feature up-and-coming comedians during his shows.


This is because up-and-coming so means ‘likely to become successful or popular soon/in the future’, it is normally used with people. But, because it can also mean likely to develop, it can go for a place too:


Magodo was still up-and-coming when I bought a plot of land there.


Note that while upcoming is written without a hyphen, up-and-coming carries two. The latter is like many other adjectives formed by combining two or more words: larger-than-life experience, no-more-sorrow crusade, forget-me-not message etc.

The relationship between upcoming and up-and-coming will also remind experts about other expressions such as incoming, outgoing and ongoing. They are all adjectives and I believe you know their meanings. I think what may be a little intriguing is whether or not each of them requires a hyphen — between the preposition and the verb that make it up. In other words, in-coming or incoming, out-going or outgoing, on-going or ongoing?

Although each features a combination of two words to gain its adjectival status, none of them takes a hyphen. Hope you are not contemplating asking me why — because that is simply a matter of convention. It is the way the language is.


For the avoidance of doubt, note the meanings and usages of the terms:


incoming: arriving at, coming towards a place or coming to take a job or an office —


The incoming chairman of the All Progressives Congress will have a lot of battles to fight.


outgoing: retiring or withdrawing from a place, going away etc.


The outgoing chairman is not happy.


The outgoing train is one of those acquired by this government


Now, you should get these correctly:

Femi Falana was still an … lawyer when he met his wife.


(a)       upcoming (b) up-and-coming (c) incoming (d) up but coming


The school is preparing for the … Founder’s Day.


(a)       oncoming (b) incoming (c) upcoming (d) up-and-coming


Yeah, great!




  1. Interesting, she is an up-and – coming artiste preparing for the upcoming event. Right!

    1. Great! She is the up-and-coming artiste preparing for the upcoming show. Thanks for following, Bimbola

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