going to- implies the chain of events has begun at the time

of speaking.

I know there are a million threads on 'going to,' but I'd like to inquire about this proposed rule (Is it a valid rule?**), and its status (What is its status?) and exceptions in AE and BE (What are its exceptions, esp in AE and BE and how common are they?).

**In other words, is 'going to' especially suited, preferred, for those cases of future events where a chain of events is already in motion at the time of speaking?

The title is from a post by forum contributer aupick, who said in 2005:

The choice between will and be going to often doesn't make much difference:

Look at that scratch on my dad's car! He'll kill me!

Look at that scratch on my dad's car! He's going to kill me!

But sometimes it does. You can say:
Don't tell me what happens next! It'll spoil the rest of the film for me.

But you can't say:

Don't tell me what happens next! It's going to spoil the rest of the film for me.

because the 'going to' implies the chain of events has begun at the time of speaking#, whereas the 'don't tell me' makes it clear that it hasn't (and won't, if blabbermouth keeps his mouth shut).
#{bolding by bennymix}

While I see aupick's point about the second example, it seems easily sidestepped:

Don't say any more! It's going to spoil the rest of the film for me. :tick: (my opinion)

The question here is: Is the sentence cited by Aupick as proof of the rule, fundamentally flawed, or is it easily fixed? (Showing that the rule doesn't really fit the case.)

As to 'chain of events,' Consider: ###"I'm going to visit Paris next summer, but haven't even begun to make travel arrangements." What event is there in the chain? The decision? In that case, "I will go to Paris next summer" quite aptly encapsulates such a decision. So, is the new sentence ### an exception to the rule mentioned by Aupick?

As I believe Cagey observed recently, the practices of native speakers do follow patterns in the choice of words, here, about future events or actions. That said, attempts to formulate 'rules' and to insist that learners 'follow the rules' seems ill advised in many cases.

NOTE: I am not trying to pick a bone with Aupick, for I believe he is mostly relaying such a rule, one that's mentioned or recommended in other sources.
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  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    This surfaces quite often.

    I think there are some cases where "going to" is said by someone who made the plan before speaking, while "will" is used by someone who is making the plan while speaking.

    "When do you expect to visit the hospital?"
    "Oh, I'm going to do that tomorrow". or
    "Oh, I'll do that, um, tomorrow".

    I think this has been turned into a "Rule" that is taught to English learners even though it is, at best, a guidance, given the reaction of native speakers when a non-native speaker tries to explain it to them resulting in confusion: "Don't you know the rules of your own language?:eek:"
    Thanks, Parla and Julian. I had a further thought. Perhaps the discussion is biased because of a focus on first person. In other words, of course if I'm talking of *my* future acts, often some intention has arisen or some decision taken: It's the NATURE of my future acts that they have some present roots. It's not because of some feature of the grammar and usage of 'going to.'

    Suppose a fellow runs over a dog and doesn't stop. Seeing the unfortunate event, I opine, "He's going to be in big trouble." I don't think I have any specific "chain of events" in mind, it's more a prediction based on other cases of wrongdoing a person doesn't really escape from. In this case, "He will be in big trouble" says about the same thing, I think.

    I have an hypothesis about this 'thing' and the origin of the rule. "I am going to" sounds like a present progressive. In my view the *future* usage has largely drained away any features of a progressive: it's by now (not sure since when) totally drafted in service of statements about the future. I think there are other examples of this sort of phenomenon (it's reminiscent of the 'deverbalization' or 'nominalization' problem-- why 'a painting' is rarely thought of as an episode or event rather than a concrete object). Those proposing the 'rule' think some pres. prog features still remain on scene and are exploitable.
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