How to use ‘going to’ in English

by Laura Jones
April 06, 2021
How to use 'going to' in English

Are you going to learn something new today? I hope so! 

We’re talking about using the structure going to in English. We use going to when we talk about future plans, intentions and predictions. When we use going to, it doesn’t matter how far in the future something is: it could be one minute from now or 50 years from now. But if we use going to, our plan or prediction must have a connection to the present. This isn’t as confusing as it sounds, I promise! 

The structure of going to

A sentence using going to is built like this: 

Subjectbegoingto- infinitive
Iamgoingto buya new coat.
Wearegoingto leave.
Itisgoingto rain.

We always use the verb be, conjugated with the subject. Going never changes form, and we always use the to-infinitive of a verb. We might use an object in the sentence, but we don’t have to. 

All about the verb “to be” in English

Going to for future plans and intentions

We use going to when we talk about our plans or intentions for the future. What is important with going to is that you have already made the plan or thought about it before you speak. You may have planned it just a few minutes before you speak, or you might have made the decision years before. 

  • I’m going to bake a cake for my wife’s birthday this year. 

Look at the diagram below. A, in the past, represents the decision to make the cake. B, in the present, represents the person saying, “I’m going to bake a cake…”, and C, in the future, represents the action of baking the cake. 

A—————————-B—————————C

Past Present Future

There are always these three stages when we use going to for future plans. Here are some more examples of using going to when talking about future plans and intentions:

  • We’re going to have lunch outside today; the weather’s beautiful.
  • They are going to start learning Spanish next year.  
  • I’m going to retire at 40. 
  • Is Joe going to visit the Parthenon while he’s in Athens?
  • Sally isn’t going to buy anything today; she doesn’t have any money.
  • I’m going to be an engineer when I’m older.

For all of the sentences above, the decision about what we are saying was made earlier. 

How to use intensifiers in English

Going to for predictions

Another way we use going to is to make predictions. Going to is not the only structure we use to make predictions, but it is a useful one. This is because we use the structure going to when we are making a prediction about something that we have present evidence for. 

  • Look at those black clouds. It’s going to rain
  • It’s 9am already! You’re going to be late for school. 
  • I’m going to pass this exam – I’ve been studying really hard. 

Going to vs will

Intentions

We can use will to talk about our intentions. The difference with going to is that, when we use will, we make the decision at the moment of speaking. 

  • If you hear the doorbell ring you might say: I will answer the door.
  • If your friend is saying they are going to the train station very early you could say: I’ll give you a lift. 

You are making these decisions at the moment of speaking. 

Our top old-fashioned English sayings

Predictions

We use both going to and will to make predictions. The difference is that with going to, you make a prediction using present evidence. With will, you do not. 

  • United are going to win. They’re 4-0 up with 2 minutes to go. 
  • I think United will win the match this afternoon. 

In the first sentence, you know the score and how much time is left. So you make a prediction with going to. In the second sentence, the match probably hasn’t started and you are simply making a prediction about what you believe will happen. 

Gonna

The short, informal form of going to is gonna /gənə/. Native speakers often use it in speech, but never in writing. (But here’s a couple of exceptions to show you!)

  • I’m gonna buy a new jacket. 
  • What are you gonna do about it?

Are you going to use this structure to talk about the future now?

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