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I remember reading or hearing that English is a very unusual language, almost unique, in using the verb "to go" to create a question. (Are you going to see the play? Are you going to drink that coffee?) Most languages would do something a lot simpler such as changing word order (See you the play? Drink you that coffee?). If you think about it, unless you've grown up with it all your life, it is a strange construction.

So my question (out of curiosity) is: Am I correct in what I said above? If so, can someone point me to an article online where I can read some more about it?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't think it's unique at all. That formulation is almost exactly the same as in French:

Tu vas voir le spectacle? Tu vas boire ce café?

It's just a form of the immediate future tense, which exists in a number of languages.

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I was thinking though that we italians don't have such construction... I'm not sure about other European/Eastern-European/North-European languages since I don't know them good enough... – Alenanno May 13 '11 at 20:10
Hmmm. I wonder if there is something peculiar in this construction though. 1. Maybe what's unusual about English is the required auxiliary verb in a closed question: He goes to class on Fridays is fine, but Goes he to class on Fridays? is wrong. You would say, Does he go to class on Fridays? 2. Or maybe the unusual thing is that in English, go + infinitive only works with go in the progressive: I am going to throttle you is correct, but not I go to throttle you ...which I think is how you would say it in Spanish. – Jason Orendorff May 13 '11 at 23:44

Going-to future is a complete article about what you asked for.


Going-to future is a term used to describe an English sentence structure referring to the future, making use of the verb phrase to be going to.1 The verb "go" can also be used to indicate the future in some other languages.

The original construction involved physical movement with an intention, such as

I am going [outside] to harvest the crop.

The location later became unnecessary, and the expression was reinterpreted to represent a near future.

The going to future is formed as subject + be (in the proper form for the subject) + going to + verb + any other information.

Same structure in French, Spanish and Creoles.

Hope this helps.

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Thanks. I think I asked the wrong question! Everyone else, please ignore this or perhaps someone with enough privaledge can close it. – Richard May 13 '11 at 20:41
No problem, I've gained a privilege for this answer. ;) – user8568 May 13 '11 at 21:00

I'm not sure it's exactly unique.

French has a similar construction:

Qu'est-ce que tu vas manger?

Same goes for Spanish:

¿Qué vas a comer?

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And also Norwegian has same structure. – user8568 May 13 '11 at 20:11
...guess I was mistaken? – Richard May 13 '11 at 20:13
@Boob: Can you write it highlighting the "going to + verb" part? :D thanks. @Richard: yeah eheh :D no worries, it's a nice question, I'll upvote you. – Alenanno May 13 '11 at 20:15
Yes, I think my memory was wrong here. I think I meant "do" - I'll ask the question again – Richard May 13 '11 at 20:26
jeg kommer til å gå på universitetet. – user8568 May 13 '11 at 20:43

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