I live in Germany where I often hear 'I gonna' or 'you gonna', in effect treating 'gonna' as a main verb and missing out the copula 'to be'. AAE also has a 'zero' copula. Perhaps this clitic will be dropped in all spoken Englishes in the future. For the moment, I was wondering where the confusion might lie.

1) Is there a phonological reason behind dropping the clitic?

2) Is this a German-speakers' phenomenon?

3) Are some forms (e.g. questions, 'you gonna come?') closer to a standard?

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    Possibly, there are two distinct phenomena going on here. For you gonna come? you're just dropping the auxiliary verb are at the beginning of a question. In AmE, auxiliary verbs at the beginning of questions are dropped all the time in speech. Dropping the auxiliary with gonna in statements is a different, and not as common, phenomenon. Commented Sep 23, 2018 at 16:12
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    I really don't think it's possible to have a proper discussion, especially around why, when it comes to informality like this (or semi-slang). The only reason that we have gonna (as far as I can guess) is that people find it easier to say than going to. No doubt the same is true for shortening I'm and you're to just I and you. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the pronoun will be (or has been) abandoned by some people. "Gonna go?" But—who knows? Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 5:30
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    See ELU's Have you ever said “muna” instead of “gonna”? and the referenced video from lovely Rachel's English. Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 5:27

4 Answers 4


I don't have answers to your specific questions, but I think it might be useful to point out that the phenomenon you describe differs in important ways from 'zero copula' (more precisely, 'zero auxilliary') phenomenon in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). According to an "Our Living Language" note in the American Heritage Dictionary, which I will reproduce below, in AAEV

only is and are are deleted; am is frequently contracted but never deleted.

But in your case, it is am that is deleted.

Here is the note in full:

A widely known feature of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and some varieties of Southern American English spoken by working-class white people is the absence of a form of be in situations where Standard English would normally require one. In these varieties of English, one can say He working, where Standard English has He is working, meaning "He is working right now." Linguists frequently describe this zero usage as zero copula, although strictly speaking the term zero copula should be used for missing inflected forms of be before nouns, adjectives, and constructions indicating place or time (as in She the leader, John nice, and He at home), and we should use the term zero auxiliary for progressive verb forms that have no form of be (as in He working) and when a form of be is missing before going to or gon(na) (as in He gon do it). The use of zero copula and zero auxiliary is perhaps even more characteristic of AAVE than is invariant habitual be. For some AAVE speakers, zero copula occurs 80 to 90 percent of the time where Standard English requires is or are. No other varieties of American English use zero copula as often.

As with all dialectal features, zero copula use is more systematic than it might at first appear. As the examples above indicate, only present tense inflected forms of be can be deleted (was and were cannot be deleted), and even among present forms, only is and are are deleted; am is frequently contracted but never deleted. Invariant or non-finite forms, such as be in You have to be good can't be deleted, nor can forms that come at the end of a clause (That's what he is). In the late 1960s, linguist William Labov summarized most of these generalizations by stating that wherever Standard English can contract is or are, AAVE can delete it. (Note that Standard English does not tolerate contractions in sentences such as That's what he's.) Equally systematic are the quantitative regularities of the zero copula. Throughout the United States, zero copula is less frequent when followed by a noun (He a man) than when followed by an adjective (He happy). It is most frequent when followed by progressives and gon(na), as exemplified above.

This pattern of be-deletion is also found in Gullah and Caribbean Creole varieties of English. Since zero copula is not a feature of the British dialects of English that colonial settlers brought to the United States, it is one of the strongest indicators that the development of AAVE may have been influenced by Caribbean English creoles or that AAVE itself may have evolved from an American Creole-like ancestor.

(American Heritage Dictionary)


Let's break down the sentences:

I gonna is I going to, which doesn't really sound correct.

I'm gonna is I am going to, which sounds more gramatical.

This is from an English Speaker's point of view, so I don't know about Germany.


This is just a conjecture, but in the German language present continuous doesn't exist, so it could be a "germanification" of the present continuous. It could be that they use "gonna" as "will", since they always use "will" ("werde" in German) for future references.

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    Present is a tense. Continuous is not a tense; it is an aspect.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 14:26

I'm gonna is correct. Seeing that "I'm" means I am. So it would be I gonna V.S. I am gonna (the latter is correct).


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