What is the name and ‘grammatical’ function (not communicative function) of the word going in the sentences below?

1- I like going to the cinema 2- I am going to the cinema

Im very confused in this.

  • "Going" is a gerund-participle verb functioning as head of the gerund-participial clause "going to the cinema", which is functioning as catenative complement of "like" in 1. and of "am" in 2.
    – BillJ
    Jun 24 '18 at 14:09
  • Possible duplicate of Is the -ing a participle in the sentence? Jun 24 '18 at 16:50
  • @BillJ Might going to the cinema be better thought of as a VP in the second (because it cannot take a Subject)? Jun 24 '18 at 18:31
  • @Araucaria Like most non-finite clauses, it is subjectless, but it has an ordinary subject understood as "I" (see CGEL p1231 Class 2B). VPs function as heads of clauses, so at the first level down in the tree "going to the cinema" is a clause that happens to have no subject. It's no different to any other subjectless non-finite clause.
    – BillJ
    Jun 24 '18 at 18:46
  • @BillJ Mmm. I'd always thought so too. But it's just occurred to me that any other non-finite clause can have a subject (apart from if, similarly, it's the complement of an auxiliary verb) Jun 24 '18 at 19:19

In both sentences, going is a verb, the main verb in a verb phrase [going to the cinema].

In the first sentence, that verb phrase forms a gerund phrase (or a reduced gerund clause -- "reduced" because there's no subject) which functions as a noun phrase, the object complement of the verb like. Since there's more than one clause, this is a complex sentence.

  • [s I [vp like [np [s[vp going [pp to the cinema pp]vp]s] np] vp] s]

In the second sentence, that verb phrase is part of the verb phrase [am [going to the cinema]], which is an example of the progressive or continuous construction (not "tense"). It's not a noun or a clause, so there is only one clause and this is a simple sentence.

  • [s I [vp am [vp going [pp to the cinema pp] vp] vp] s]

The word going is the gerund form of the verb go to. This gerund form of the verb functions as a noun. In the first example, going is the direct object which you like. In the second example, you are assigning the object going (i.e. the state of going) to yourself.

In both cases to the cinema clarifies the sort of going that you either like or are assigning to yourself.


Going in the first sentence is a gerund. It acts as a noun.

Going in the second sentence is part of a verb phrase. It is in the present continuous tense.

am/is/are + (verb)-ing

Example: What are you doing? --I am watching TV.


[1] I like [going to the cinema].

[2] I am [going to the cinema].

These are catenative constructions.

In both examples, "going" is a gerund-participle verb functioning as head of the bracketed gerund-participial clause "going to the cinema", which is functioning as catenative complement of "like" in [1] and of "am" in [2].

The term 'catenative' comes from the Latin word for "chain", which is appropriate here since each sentence contains a chain of two verbs, the second functioning as complement to the first.

  • In spite of the lack of attribution to the CGEL analysis, I don't understand the downvote here (especially when the other answers were upvoted). Jun 24 '18 at 16:52

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