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How to Use (and Not Use) "GONNA" in English (Audio Reading and GIFs Included)

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

"Gonna" is a common word in casual English speech. You have probably heard it in movies, songs, and TV shows. This page will teach you how and when to use "gonna," and it will also highlight the most common mistake some English learners make with this common conversational word.

It is important to keep in mind that "gonna" should mostly be used in conversation. Do not use "gonna" in formal writing. You can use it in texts and messages to your friends, but you shouldn't use it in academic essays or in important emails to your boss, for example.

So, when do you use "gonna"?

"Gonna" is used as a casual pronunciation of "going to" in "be going to" sentences that express future plans, arrangements, intentions, or predictions with evidence. It is important to stress that "gonna" is only used with the "be going to" structure to express the future. To make this clearer, you should always think of "gonna" as part of the construction "be gonna," where the "be" is appropriately conjugated--"I'm gonna," "He's gonna," "They're gonna," etc. Let's take a look at some examples, first with "be going to," then with "be gonna."

Example 1:

"We're going to visit my parents this weekend."

"We're gonna visit my parents this weekend."

Example 2:

"I'm going to talk to my brother about this."

"I'm gonna talk to my brother about this."

Example 3:

"I was going to call you last night, but I had a family emergency."

"I was gonna call you last night, but I had a family emergency." (This example uses "be going to" to express a past intention that didn't result in an action. It's like saying "I wanted to call you last night," or "I had the intention of calling you last night.")

Example 4:

"According to my weather app, it's going to be cold today."

"According to my weather app, it's gonna be cold today."

As you can see, "gonna" is a combination of "going" and "to" in "be going to" sentences that express the future. It's really that simple. To practice this construction a bit more, read the following common sentences:

"This is gonna be easy."

"Who's gonna be there?"

"Are you gonna be done in time?"

"We're gonna try."

"Have you done your homework yet?"

"Don't worry. I'm gonna do it."

"I didn't get the job promotion."

"Oh no. What are you gonna do now?"

"I'm so excited for our trip! It's gonna be awesome!"

"I'm gonna send you an email."

"It's gonna rain. Look at the clouds."

"What's gonna happen next?"

"I wonder what's gonna happen next."

"Who's gonna come with me?"

"Are you gonna call them back?"

"I'm meeting her in 20 minutes, but I don't know what I'm gonna say."

"I'm gonna keep working."

"I'm gonna study."

"We're gonna go for lunch in 10 minutes."

"You shouldn't do this. You're gonna get in trouble."

"Who's gonna win?"

"I'm gonna show you something."

"Do you think she's gonna quit?"

"This pen's out of ink. I'm gonna get a new one."

To practice using "gonna" with your own examples, think about your plans for tomorrow, or think about a trip or something you plan to do in a few weeks or in a few months. What are you gonna do? Also, what are you gonna do after you finish reading this page?

Example answers:

"Tomorrow, I'm gonna have lunch with my parents."

"Next month, my family and I are gonna go to Florida."

"After I finish reading this, I'm gonna send a text to my friend."

A common mistake

At the beginning of this article, I stressed the importance of only using "gonna" as part of the "be gonna" structure to express future plans, arrangements, intentions, and predictions with evidence. One of the most common mistakes that English learners make with "gonna" is assuming that it can be used as a substitute for "going to" in present continuous sentences as well. For instance, in the present continuous, you can say "I'm going to school." However, you cannot say "I'm gonna school."

In short, you must follow "gonna" with a bare infinitive verb. To make this clear, here are some more incorrect uses of "gonna," and their corrected forms.

Incorrect: "I'm gonna the store."

Correct: "I'm gonna go to the store."

Incorrect: "She's gonna happy."

Correct: "She's gonna be happy." (You cannot follow "gonna" with an adjective. If you want to use an adjective, you must follow "gonna" with a linking verb first, such as "be," "seem," "appear," "become," or "look.")

Incorrect: "They're not gonna the car."

Correct: "They're not gonna take the car," or perhaps "They're not gonna buy the car," depending on the intended meaning of the speaker.

How was that? Not bad, right? If you need a reminder of how to use "gonna," come back to this page from time to time. It will always be here!

Finally, thank you for studying English with me. If you found this page useful, and if you'd like to support my work and take your English to the next level, consider purchasing a PDF, eBook, or paperback copy of one of my books. Thanks again, and until next time, I wish you success in your studies.


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