Learn English – “Going to go” vs “going to”


1) I am going to go watch a game.

2) I am going to a game.

3) I am going to golf.

4) I am going to go golfing.

What are the differences and similarities between and among sentences 1,2,3 and 4?

5) I am going to Canada.

6) I am going fishing.

It is easy to differentiate sentences 5 and 6 in that sentence 5 sees going to point to a place while sentence 6 sees going point to an action. But sentence 3 clearly shows that going can also show progression towards an action.

7) I am going to shopping.

Sentence 7 is a very common mistake by ESL students.

Best Answer

It's firstly important to separate out the cases of "going":

  • "going" used as part of a progressive tense of "go" with the actual notion of movement vs "going" when part of the periphrastic future construction "going to...", bearing in mind that a present progressive can actually indicate a future action (as in "I'm going to Canada", just as "I'm seeing Dave tomorrow" also implies a future action with the verb "see")
  • "going to" where "to" is a regular preposition vs "to" as a complementiser (i.e. introducing an infinitive);

Then, parallel to these different uses of "go", you need to take account of the following differences:

  • "go golfing" tends to indicate something of an 'active' participation in an event, and usually one where you make a 'trip' to a particular place to carry out the activity then come back;
  • "go to golf/chess club/rugby practice etc" tends to imply going along to an 'organised event' that happens on a regular basis. So saying "go to shopping" doesn't usually make sense, because it implies that there is an organised 'event' called "shopping" that you go to regularly, and that's not usually the case with shopping.

I think the combination of these dichotomies between them explain your sentences.