Which would you use 'go for a swim' or 'going swimming'?

I am going swimming today.

I go for a swim today.

  • 2
    In English, you do not say "I go for a swim today", you say "I will go for a swim today". – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 20 '12 at 16:47
  • 2
    More likely "I'm going for a swim today". – slim Jan 20 '12 at 17:56

Both mean the same thing. Both are widely used and understood.

"Go swimming" has always been more common.

Ngram: enter image description here


Serious swimmers go for a swim. They swim a specific distance or for a specific time and then go home. Those who just like splashing about in the water before lying on the beach or round the pool go swimming.

  • 6
    I don't perceive this; I'd need some evidence to believe it. – slim Jan 20 '12 at 14:49
  • @slim - I think Barrie is demonstrating when one would use each phrase, since Lukas has used the second one in a non-idiomatic fashion. Sorry if I missed you joke. – Matt E. Эллен Jan 20 '12 at 16:47
  • 2
    @MattЭллен "I don't perceive this" means, I understand what Barrie is saying, but I don't see it to be true, from the English I hear spoken around me every day. – slim Jan 20 '12 at 17:19

Basically, both are equally valid.

But English speakers rarely use the simple present tense. You almost never hear someone say, "I go for a swim today." If they already did it, they say, "I went for a swim today." If they haven't done it yet, they say "I will go for a swim today." (Or, "I plan to go for a swim today" or some such.)

  • 1
    "I'm going for a swim" sounds natural. – slim Jan 20 '12 at 17:53
  • @slim: Agreed. I was going to say that but I forgot. :-) – Jay Jan 20 '12 at 19:50

Although this is an old post, I have to put in my two bits. What does the ngram above prove? Consider this ngram:

'this book' vs 'that book'

For the phrases 'this book' and 'that book', we can see that 'this book' is more common in the ngram sample than 'that book'. Sorting by the dates of publication of the scanned works in the corpus, this difference has increased for subsamples from recent years. (I hope I said that right.)

In other words; this is a characteristic of the sample; 'this book' appears more frequently in the books and whatnot that google scanned from recent decades than it does in the scanned material from earlier periods.

Do you think that based on this I can deduce an actual change in usage of 'this book' and 'that book' among the overall population of English speakers? Do you think I should let this influence my decision on whether to say 'this book' or 'that book'?

Hopefully not.

In the same way, just because 'go swimming' and 'go for a swim' have the distributions the ngram above shows, does it tell us anything about actual frequency of use among the overall population?

And what if the phrases 'go swimming' and 'go for a swim' actually have a difference in meaning? Ngrams in such cases are not suitable tools to answer the question asked. Would ngrams of 'cat' and 'dog' tell me which one is a better choice regardless of the sentence's context?

  • 1
    This is a comment on another answer and not an answer. – AndyT Feb 17 '17 at 10:04

I think "I go for a swim" is more common among native speakers.

Because this style of language is in use in many contexts like

I go for a ride

I go for a sip of coffee

I go for a swim

  • 3
    -1: Firstly, @slim's NGram strongly contradicts your assertion that "I go for a swim" is more common among native speakers. Secondly, native speakers would very rarely (if ever) say "I go for a sip of coffee". – FumbleFingers Jan 20 '12 at 15:04
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: The NGram was on "going for a swim" not "go for a swim". If you change it to "go for a swim" you get this: books.google.com/ngrams/… – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 20 '12 at 16:44
  • @EnthuDeveloper Let's see your supporting evidence. – MetaEd Jan 20 '12 at 16:47
  • 2
    @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner: Your link is meaningless - it compares going swimming with go for a swim (different verb tenses as well as using the gerund or straight noun). You've just picked out two "non-comparable" elements from slim's chart, but all this does is obfuscate something that's quite clear in the original - go/going swimming are far more common than the corresponding for a swim versions. – FumbleFingers Jan 20 '12 at 17:29

protected by RegDwigнt Jun 9 '12 at 8:56

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.