...a week before Tommy's gonna ship out...

JungKim

Senior Member
Korean
It's from the movie, Avatar:
[at the morgue where his brother's body is being held]
Suit #2: It's about your brother...
Jake Sully: [voice over] So a week before Tommy's gonna ship out, a guy with a gun ends his journey...for the paper in his wallet.
What bothers me is the use of 'be going to' in the before clause.
Is this usage natural?
I mean, what's the reason for not simply saying like "So a week before Tommy ships out"?
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The sentence is using "historic present" verb form often used in telling stories about the past.

    "Tommy is going to ship out in a week". That is a true statement made at the time someone shoots him. He never does ship out. He was going to ship out = He was planning to ship out, but never made it. So we can't say "A week before he ships out" because he doesn't ever ship out.

    If he had survived the gunshot and had actually shipped out, the voice-over could have used "A week before he ships out", as part of the "historic present" form.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Thanks, JulianStuart.
    And I guess in this instance you can't replace 'be going to' with 'will' as in "So a week before Tommy'll ship out, a guy with a gun ends his journey...for the paper in his wallet.", can you?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    All of the typical will/going to discussion issues (when the decision was made, how likely the event, what the speaker means etc) all go away because the outcome is now known. Thus we can read "going to" (I know you know gonna isn't an English word but it's in transcripts and subtitles:() as exactly equivalent to "scheduled to", or "due to". We can no longer use "will" because we know he doesn't.
     

    JungKim

    Senior Member
    Korean
    It seems to me that Jake Sully could have said in the past tense:
    So a week before Tommy was gonna ship out, a guy with a gun ended his journey...for the paper in his wallet.

    Now, is it okay for him to say this?
    So a week before Tommy would ship out, a guy with a gun ended his journey...for the paper in his wallet.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... So a week before Tommy would ship out, a guy with a gun ended his journey...for the paper in his wallet.
    That would imply that Tommy did, with hindsight, actually ship out.

    You'd need to say:
    A week before Tommy was due to ship out...
    A week before Tommy was to ship out...

    or (the direct equivalent of where we started:))
    A week before Tommy was going to ship out...
     
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