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I will... (mere possibility) / I'm going to... (firm intention)

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by vincenzochiaravalle, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. vincenzochiaravalle

    vincenzochiaravalle Senior Member

    Avezzano/Roma
    Italy/Italian
    Dear friends,


    Hello everybody!

    I come to you today with something quite weird, actually. Back from her recent trip to California, an Italian friend of mine (who speaks English at a lower-intermediate level) tells me she has been left with a rock-solid teaching about future tense in the use of American English. She seems to have experienced a clear-cut distinction between "I WILL..." and "I'M GOING TO...", by which the first ("I will") would routinely express ONLY a mere possibility, whereas the second ("I'm going to") would be used -- and REQUIRED even?!? -- to convey certainty.

    So, in a phrase like "I WILL CALL YOU TOMORROW", right because the speaker is using "will", the underlying message would be that he is certainly NOT SURE he will, therefore the other person should not actually count on receiving that phone call; on the contrary, such expectation would be well founded had he said "I AM GOING TO CALL YOU TOMORROW". In other words, if it's "I'm going to call you", you can pretty much rest assured; but if it's just "I will call you", I'm not so sure myself I will (???).

    I'm sort of baffled here. The fact is, in the nearly ten years that I have been using English, albeit as a foreign language, I have never heard of such a thing. I know that if I say "I am going to...", then I DO have an intention, and I'm emphasizing that. But never have I even suspected that "I will..." could be not much of a promise after all, especially not as opposed to "I'm going to...". One would think I should have noticed, but that's the downside of not being a native: you never know... ;)

    Would you please help me get this straight?

    Thanks in advance.

    V.
     
  2. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    Ciao!
    I'm baffled too.
    We tend to be a bit different in California, but not that different! :D

    I will call you tomorrow.
    I'll call you tomorrow.
    I'm going to call you tomorrow.
    I'm gonna call you tomorrow.
    ...call you tomorrow.

    To me, these five phrases mean exactly the same.
    Any "true" difference(s) between them would be subtle
    and transmitted by the "context" and "tone of voice",
    not, in my opinion, by the grammar of the phrase.
     
  3. Binario Senior Member

    USA
    Russia, Russian
    Non sono un madrelingua, ma non vedo nessuna differenza tra "I'll call you" e "I'm gonna call you". Entrambe sono le espressione di intenzione, ed entrambe possono essere compiute o no.
     
  4. vincenzochiaravalle

    vincenzochiaravalle Senior Member

    Avezzano/Roma
    Italy/Italian
    Dear friends,


    Thank you both.

    Tim, as I understand it, you're confirming that if one says "I will call you", and then he doesn't, sure he doesn't deserve to be shot, but neither is he entitled to cover it up with an English lesson, like "Whoa, I just said 'I WILL'... ...not that I WAS GOING TO! Learn the language!".

    Take care,

    V.
     
  5. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    Exactly!
    There is no special difference between the two,
    any "real" meaning is tone of voice or context.
     
  6. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    I don't know if this only applies to BE, but British textbooks do make a difference between I'll... and I'm going to..., the difference being that, unlike I'm going to..., I'll... can be used when you announce a decision you've just made, maybe because of a circumstance you've just learnt about.

    - I'm going to call him next week
    - Don't you know? He'll be going abroad on a business trip next week
    - Ok, I'll call him tomorrow then

    Is this just a "textbook" distinction, which is not observed in real usage?
     
  7. Leo57 Senior Member

    Yorkshire
    UK English
    Hi everybody
    This thread has intrigued me no end, but I, for one, would only use "I'll call you tomorrow" and not I'm going to call you tomorrow, unless I had to emphasise the fact*. If I said to my daughter, I'll (I will) give you a ring tomorrow, then that's what I am going to do, it is still an intention. The "tomorrow" is very definite. After seeing a friend, if I said, I'll give you a ring...she will know that I will do it, but it could be several days before I actually get around to it as it is left open.

    *
    Are you cleaning your room today?
    No, I'll do it tomorrow.
    Oh, I've heard that before, I don't believe you!
    I've told you, I'm going to do it tomorrow. (more emphatic)

    The point here though, with regard to mere possibility/firm intention I would have to say that both can function equally. Referring back to the little conversation above, the child/teenager could quite easily say: I've told you, I will do it tomorrow! with the emphasis on the word "will".
    Therefore, there will be different conversations when using either of them will work. Just as Tim says, tone of voice or context. However, as far as I am concerned, they are not totally interchangeable. Giovannino has given us a perfect example of usage.
    (I'm sure we have done "I'm going to" on this forum before, I forgot to look!)

    Ciao
    Leo:)
     
  8. Memimao Senior Member

    Busto Arsizio, Italy
    United Kingdom English
    I think we have to remember that there is no future tense in English.


    Take this example: go to the cinema tomorrow evening

    This is a future activity, expressed by the base form (go without to) and needs no further specification.

    I can precede this phrasal description with any number of present tenses:

    I intend to, want to, hope to, expect to, plan to etc.etc.

    or modals

    I will (decision), am going to, (intention) must (obligation), should (it's a good idea), can/could/may/might (possibilty).

    These all express how we feel about/view the future activity now!

    I will go... is what we say as we decide, we say it once only, after which we say I am going to go...(moving, though not physically, from decision to activity).

    At a certain point we will say I am going to the cinema tomorrow evening (present continuous to describe an event that has already commenced)
    often because we have involved another person (made an arrangement) by agreeing to go with a friend or just booking the seat etc.

    In other words, since you are describing your current feelings about a future activity, the form you use is a subjective decision, but it describes the present, not the future activity
     
  9. giovannino

    giovannino Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian
    What about I will be working all day tomorrow? Isn't the focus on the future activity in this case?
     
  10. Leo57 Senior Member

    Yorkshire
    UK English
  11. charlievega Senior Member

    Pisa Italy
    Italian
    Dear Friends,
    as far as I know there is a third possibility of expressing the future tense in English that is with a simple ing form :
    We're leaving for the States tomorrow.
    and it means that it is part of a programme scheduled in advance.
    Is it right ? Thank you.
    Charlievega
     
  12. Memimao Senior Member

    Busto Arsizio, Italy
    United Kingdom English

    Not exactly.

    The continous tense focuses on the activity.

    I will be working..., I am going to be working..., I should be working.. etc. follow a pattern similar to the simple I will work... etc. Present feeling about a future activity, though some forms are less likely than others. E.g. I could be working all day tomorrow is more likely than I can be working all day tomorrow.
     
  13. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
  14. Memimao Senior Member

    Busto Arsizio, Italy
    United Kingdom English
    Yes I mentioned the present continuous form. You can also say the train leaves at ten a.m. tomorrow (activity forming part of a schedule)
     
  15. Caroline35 Senior Member

    Rovigo(Italy)
    Italian
    Re: Will or going to

    Leo your explanation was excellent and it makes a lot of sense.
    Thanks
     
  16. gyuseppe New Member

    Italian
    Hi!

    I've made exercises. But I am doubtful now.

    For example, in this sentence:
    Tom (call) is going to call when he (arrive) arrives in Madrid. He (stay) is going to stay with you for two or three days until his new apartment (be) is available.

    Why can not I use will form? Is not it a promise?

    And then, in this exercise:
    Mark: What are you doing with those scissors?
    Beth: I (cut) am going to cut that picture of the ocean out of the travel magazine.

    Could I use the present continuous and not the future? ...I'm cutting that...


    Thanks.
     
  17. TimLA

    TimLA Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    English - US
    Hi,

    Tom is going to call when he arrives in Madrid.
    He is going to stay with you for two or three days until
    his new apartment is available.

    You can use this form, and it is perfectly natural.

    This has exactly the same meaning:
    Tom will call when he arrives in Madrid.
    He will stay with you for two or three days until
    his new apartment is available.

    Mark: What are you doing with those scissors?
    Beth: I am going to cut that picture of the ocean out of the travel magazine.

    Beth: I am cutting that picture....

    This is fine.
     
  18. gyuseppe New Member

    Italian



    Thanks!

    I asked that because in theese excercises:

    http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/verbs21.htm exercise 10.
    http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/verbs19.htm exercise 1.

    if I use "will" in the first sentence and "I am cutting" in the second sentence, it results wrong.

    Probably the application is hard-shell. ;)
     
  19. Alfisomm Senior Member

    roma
    Italia-italiano
    He is going to resign.
    He will resign.
    Entrambe le frasi si richiamano ad una azione posta nel futuro. Tuttavia credo che la traduzione in italiano debba essere differenziata.
    la prima: è certo che egli darà le dimissioni.
    la seconda:egli darà le dimissioni.



     
  20. Transatlantic Junior Member

    Toronto
    srpskohrvatski; English
    One subtle difference:

    Case Number 1:

    Jimmy: Mom, my bike's broken.
    Mom: I know. I'm going to fix it tomorrow. [Here, the focus may be on the existence of a firm plan]/I'll fix it tomorrow. [Here, the focus might be on the fact that it's a promise]

    ............................................................

    Jimmy: Mom, my bike's broken.
    Mom: Oh, is it really? I had no idea. I'll fix it tomorrow, OK? [No prior plan. Decision just made.]

    **********************************

    Oh, and also:

    For evidence-based immediate future, we tend to use going to do rather than will do:

    Look, that bookshelf is going to collapse! [i.e. it is already precariously leaning to one side and has perhaps now started moving a bit]

    ............................................................

    But, in most cases, these two constructions are perfectly interchangeable.
     
  21. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    What I taught (BE) was two different situations for "will" and two for "going to":

    1) Intentions:
    a) At the moment of the decision: "It's hot in here! I'll open the window".
    b) Decision already made: "Why are you getting up?" "Because I'm going to open the window".

    2) Predictions:
    a) Opinion: "That bookshelf's badly made; it'll collapse one day".
    b) Imminent or evident event: "Look, that bookshelf's going to collapse!" (Transatlantics's example).

    However, I consider these rules as just a reasonably safe guide for beginners. They often overlap and, as others say, they are fairly interchangeable depending on intonation etc.
     

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