The reason for this is that most people don’t really have a clear idea as to how and when to use the other future forms, its pronunciation is more dynamic and difficult to learn, and a lot of teachers and learners exaggerate the importance of grammar and totally deny the validity of GONNA as an appropriate use of the English language.
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WILL is just so simple, easy, but if you use it all the time, it is often too rigid and does not flow well. Native speakers use it far less than most learners, who tend to ignore GOING TO and its colloquial variations “gonna,” and “I’m-uh-nuh.”
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The point is that there’s no valid reason to do this (especially with gonna) because this is how native speakers use the language. In addition, this is one of the must fun, popular, and intriguing uses of the English language, and I highly recommend that you learn to (1) understand it, (2) play around with it, and (3) learn to use it in real life situations.
No matter what your English level, I’m certain that you will learn something new today, and we’re gonna try to make it as fun as possible.
Today you’ll learn:
- Different uses of going to
- How and when to use the colloquial contraction gonna and “I’m-uh-nuh”
- Real life examples of “gonna” by a middle-class American woman AND her child just starting to learn how to speak (suggesting that this is a natural native speaking tendency that precedes or transcends grammar)
- Real life examples of “gonna” in a formal interview with Steve Jobs on a financial program on CNBC.
- Common confusions
To be + going to + root verb is a very common future form in English, and despite its controversial and ambiguous use, it is very simple. We’re going to start off with its basic structure.
Remember, it’s important to have a firm understanding of the basic structure before you work with the colloquial. After you develop the base, observe how native speakers use it, learn to understand, and start imitating them.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Basic Structure: To be + going to + root verb
(Note: most native speakers pronounce this goin’-da)
- I am + going to + learn French.
- You are + going to + play soccer.
- He is + going to + have fun.
- She is + going to + listen to music.
- It is + going to + rain.
- We are + going to + read a book.
- They are + going to + study English.
- You guys are + going to + call me.
Different Uses of “Going To”
We use “going to” to talk about future situations when there are:
1. intentions and/or plans: This means that there is an intention of doing something in the future (even if you don’t end up doing it or it’s not realistic)
- I’m going to hang out with Tom on the weekend.
- I’m going to call my mom tonight.
- Are you going to read the book I gave you?
- I’m going to go to New York next year. (don’t confuse with “I’m going to NY next year)
- What are you going to do this weekend?
2. Predictions based on evidence:
- You studied hard. You’re going to do so well on this test!
- Look at those clouds. It’s going to rain!
- I did horrible on the test. Mom and Dad aren’t going to like this.
Colloquial Contraction 1: Gonna
“Gonna” is a common colloquial contraction for “going to” (not used in the present continuous). Native speakers (especially Americans) use this in formal AND informal speaking situations, as well as in informal writing situations.
A lot of schools and grammar books teach people that this is not okay to use in formal speaking situations, but native speakers use these all the time. The only place it’s NOT okay is in formal writing (research paper, professional e-mails, etc).
Here are some examples:
- I’m gonna hang out with my friends (I’m going to hang out with my friends)
- Are you gonna tell him what you did? (Are you going to tell him what you did?)
American Children Learn GONNA Before Grammar
Another convincing argument for learning GONNA is the fact that native speaking children learn to say GONNA before any notion of grammar. Remember, grammar is here to map out and complement the way we speak, not to control it.
I’m American, and I grew up saying GONNA not as bastardization of the English language, but as A NATURAL EVOLUTION of the way we actually speak. If American children learn to say GONNA as language is emerging, AND later in life, what’s the problem with teaching and learning English like this?
A lot of grammarticians will not like to hear this, which is expected, but watch the video and decide for yourself. If native speaking children are learning to say “I’m gonna marry him,” before any notion of grammar enters their minds, I really have a hard time seeing what the problem is with GONNA.
5 Formal Examples of GONNA in a Steve Jobs Interview
If you still have any doubts about the appropriateness of GONNA in formal American English, have a look at the following formal interview on a financial program on CNBC with Steve Jobs, who was the co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Apple. He changed history and revolutionized several industries. Check for yourself how Steve, and another prominent American businessman, clearly and undeniably use GONNA five times in a 10 minute interview:
- (2:06) “and completely change what your expectations are gonna be.” (Jobs)
- (6:28) “I think everything’s gonna be just fine.” (Jobs)
- (8:08) “I don’t think the stock scandle’s gonna impact.” (Turner)
- (8:12) “earnings are gonna be there.” (Turner)
- (9:39) “people are gonna follow him.” (turner)
5 Examples of GONNA in Popular Music
- Cups: You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone (Ana Kendrick)
- Bad Boys: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You (Inner Circle- from the TV Show Cops)
- Never Gonna Be Alone (Nickelback)
- It’s Gonna Be Love (Mandy Moore)
- Are You Gonna Go My Way (Lenny Kravitz)
Confusions with the Present Continuous
It is very common for English learners to confuse to be + going to be + verb structure for the continuous with go (example B:). What makes this even more confusing is that sometimes they actually mean the same thing.
Example A: I’m going to go to NY next year (to be + going to + verb- future)
Example B: I’m going to NY next year (present continuous- future- NOT discussed in this lesson)
With this said, the colloquial contraction “gonna” applies to example A above (I’m gonna go to NY next year), but NOT example B (I’m going to NY next year). “Gonna” is never applicable to the present continuous. “I’m
gonna to New York” is incorrect.
*Also: going to = gonna, so please note “I’m gonna
Colloquial Contractions 2: “I’m-unna”/ “angunna”
A Contraction of a Contraction- “I’m-unna”: I recently discovered (by analyzing recordings of myself and other native speakers speaking) that native speakers often contract the first person contraction of “I’m gonna” AGAIN to “I’m-unnah” or even “angunna.”
- “’I’m-unna” go to the store. Do you want anything?”
- “‘I’m-unna” go to the Pearl Jam concert this weekend.
Gonna, I’m-unna, and I’ma
IMPORTANT NOTES ON “I’m uh-nuh”:
While gonna is very common in informal writing and speaking, we don’t use “I’m-unna” in written English and I would advise not to use it in formal speaking situations. It’s important for English learners to learn to understand “I’m-unna,” and even to play around with it in an informal way, but until you totally master it in a native speaking environments, be very careful using it, because:
- As an English learner, it might take some time to learn the right rhythm and entonation.
- It’s something native speakers don’t know they do, and it’s not universal.
- One could argue that “I’m-uh-nuh” promotes lazy speaking habits and the deterioration of the English language.
- Non-native English speakers will most certainly not understand you.
- Most grammar-focused English teachers won’t believe you (unless you show them a real example), and will probably not allow it.
- Pablo Picasso knows what he’s talking about: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
How to Start Using These Now
Learning to understand, play around with, and use “going to,” “gonna,” and even “I’m-unna” to talk about the future, is a dynamic, fun, and essential aspect of English fluency, which, in its essence, is to connect with people. Remember, grammar isn’t fixed in stone. It helps compliment and give structure to what we already do with the language, but as you can see from how children grow up learning to speak, it can’t control the natural evolution of the language.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, here’s an fascinating presentation by distinguished linguist John McWhorter on the history of the English language, the origin of written language, as well as grammar and it’s ambiguous role today.
As you can see, communicating in the future is not as simple as you may have thought, but with the right attitude and tools, it can be a lot more interesting, and with practice, it will improve your communication.
Here are a few recommendations for you to start applying this lesson in your life and start speaking Real Life English Today:
- Pay attention to the way native speakers use “going to,” “gonna,” and “I’m uh-nuh” in TV series, movies, music, and any other native speaking media.
- Experiment, play around with, and practice using these. If you know any native speakers or highly proficient speakers who use these, ask them for feedback.
- Read and Listen in the coming weeks to more installments of “The Future Tense Made Easy,” as we will cover: Will, The Present Continuous, and the Simple Present.
- Sign up for our free mailing list and receive updates, free presents, and invites to exclusive chat sessions, parties in different parts of the world, and much more.
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