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I'm a little confused by the verb 'go'. I know that it is intransitive. My issue is that I intuitively feel that it may have some transitive uses when used in the context of activities. For example:

Let's go fishing.

It follows the template 'subject verb object' so I would assume that in this context "go" is transitive.

Can someone please explain to me why my intuition is wrong?

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    "Fishing" seems to me to express more purpose than a direct object. "Let's go in order to do what?"
    – fev
    Dec 16, 2020 at 16:41
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    As in We went fishing; let is not necessary for the construction. These are often called "serial verbs" and occur more frequently in other languages, where a sentence might go something like "He went cut split stacked the wood". English does have some serial verb constructions with come and go -- Come sit with me; Go wash the dishes, and also concatenatives: Come and sit with me; Go and wash the dishes; they have past tenses (He went and did it), but the serials don't (*He went washed the dishes). Dec 16, 2020 at 17:10
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    ... Collins Cobuild calls these 'phase structures' where the 'action' (used very imprecisely) is described only by the two verbs together. 'He went singing with the choir last Thursday' (contrast 'He went, singing'). 'Let's go shopping. 'She sat knitting. The 'go fishing' group. They're analogues of auxiliary constructions (she was knitting) but the leading verbs have semantic content. Dec 16, 2020 at 17:26
  • When we say, go hunting, go shipping etc., aren't they ( the ing-verbs) used as adverbials?
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 17, 2020 at 0:32
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    @RamPillai No: they are catenative complement clauses functioning as complement of "go". See my answer.
    – BillJ
    Dec 17, 2020 at 11:08

2 Answers 2

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Let's go fishing.

Yes, "go" is intransitive here, and "fishing" is a verb, not a noun.

It's essentially a catenative construction.

1st person inclusive let-imperatives contain the catenative verb let together with an NP object (here "us" reduced to 's) and a bare infinitival clause (here go fishing) as second complement.

In your particular example, the catenative verb go has the gerund-participial clause "fishing" as its catenative complement.

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  • Thank you for your detailed response. I will need to read into gerund-participial clauses.
    – Timmy
    Dec 16, 2020 at 18:59
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Let's go 𝐟𝐒𝐬𝐑𝐒𝐧𝐠. In this sentence 'fishing' works as an adverb. An adverb cannot be the object. So the verb '𝐠𝐨' is an 𝐒𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐒𝐭𝐒𝐯𝐞 verb.

I like swimming. In this sentence 'swimming' is a gerund. It functions as a noun. It is the object. So 'like' is a transitive verb. (A gerund can be the subject or the object.)

gerund= verb + ing

present participle= verb + ing

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    Fishing is not an adverb!!! Mar 3, 2022 at 11:03
  • so noun? or adjective? Mar 3, 2022 at 12:25
  • ... It's a verb! Mar 3, 2022 at 13:31
  • It is a present participle (verb + ing) It cannot be the object. But a gerund (verb + ing) can be the object. Mar 3, 2022 at 14:20
  • 'We went fishing' and 'we sat fishing' use a phase structure perhaps best seen as an analogue of the auxiliary construction 'We were fishing'. Mar 3, 2022 at 14:42

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