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I realized that many Indian languages also use the "going to verb" construct, like "going to sleep". However, this phrase is not used in Japanese.

How far back in time, can we trace this "going to ..." phrase? Could it be that the British picked up this phrase from Indian Pidgin and carried it back home or does it have its roots in the Proto-Indo-European languages?


EDIT: Japanese also has the "going to verb" phrase. My bad. Ikemasen

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  • I have problems with this question. Do you have evidence that "going to sleep" is a verb rather than a noun; compare "going to bed", "going to the toilet", etc? There's also a difference between the idiomatic use of "go to sleep" meaning to actually fall asleep vs the construction "I am going to X" meaning I will do X shortly (e.g. "I'm going to play football after work"/"I am going to sleep well tonight"). However, some of these have analogues in Old English (pre 1066), and some are found in French or other Romance languages, so it's highly unlikely to be from an Indian language.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 5, 2021 at 14:19
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    If you mean using the "to go" verb as an auxiliary verb which indicates the following verb will take place in the future...French has that too.
    – swbarnes2
    Jan 5, 2021 at 21:40
  • There is only one main construction but it can be seen in two ways. The second way can be divided into three constructions: 1. Are you going to eat that? -> to go to = to have the intent of eating that, i.e. to move towards (in the direction of) the eating of that. -- 2a. Are you going {to the office}? = to go {towards (in the direction of) the office} -- 2b. Are you going to sleep? = to go {towards (in the direction of) sleep} -- 2c. Are you going shopping? = to go {towards shopping}
    – Greybeard
    Jan 8, 2021 at 16:56
  • This has nothing to do with Indian Pidgin. What an idea.
    – Lambie
    Apr 13, 2023 at 15:41

2 Answers 2

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OED traces this "future intention" use to 1483:

  1. Expressing a plan or intention that something will happen (usually soon), or making a prediction that something will happen, based on present events or circumstances.

    a. In the progressive with a following to-infinitive. To be planning or intending to do or be something; to be likely or due to do or be something.

    (a) intransitive. With auxiliary be (usually in a simple present or past form; rarely in compound or non-finite forms)

    1483 tr. Adam of Eynsham Reuelation xviii Thys onhappy sowle..was goyng to be broughte [L. agitur] into helle for the synne and onleful lustys of her body.
    2008 R. Rummel-Hudson Schuyler's Monster (2009) vii. 90 He found out his wife was going to have a baby.

It thus seems unlikely that English inherited this from Indian Pidgin.

OED give for the etymology

Cognate with Old Frisian gān, Old Dutch gān, gēn (Middle Dutch gaen, Dutch gaan), Old Saxon -gān (in fulgān to accomplish; Middle Low German gān), Old High German gān, gēn (Middle High German gān, gēn, German gehen), and Crimean Gothic geen (not attested in earlier Gothic), further etymology uncertain (see note).

The "note" is several pages long, although it does have a specific reference to sense 51:

With uses expressing the future (see sense 51) compare similar uses of the verb ‘to go’ followed by the infinitive in some Romance languages. In English, this is usually expressed with a progressive construction using the present participle (to be going to; compare gointer v., gonna v., gunna v., and gon v.); with a similar use of the uninflected form go in West African (especially Nigerian) English (see sense 51b) perhaps influenced by similar constructions in one or more West African languages.

  1. b. intransitive. colloquial (chiefly Caribbean and West African). In the form go, with bare infinitive. To be planning to or intending to do something; (be) going to, ‘gonna’.

    1998 C. Okechukwu Predicament (2012) ix. 66 She heard a man boasting. ‘I go disorganize your dental formula.’

However, that use is merely transferring a construction from other languages into an English-like patois.

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    I wouldn't know how to investigate this, but the 'going fishing' phase structure as Cobuild calls it (stand watching / sit knitting / go fishing / come shopping ...), essentially an auxiliary-like construction with added meaning (is watching / knitting / fishing ...), may be an intermediate. Jan 5, 2021 at 11:53
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Going to should not be classified as proper concerning good grammar as the future tense should be expressed in ways as I / we shall; you, he, she, it, they etc. will.

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