Is It Gonna or Going To?

I remember that in fourth grade, a friend of mine showed me an essay she’d written. I couldn’t tell you anything about it—not the subject or the class or the length of the essay–except that within this masterpiece of childhood narrative, she’d written the non-word gonna. Even at that age, I was physically shaken to see such a horrendous error written right there in front of me, for all the world to see. I assumed, in my naiveté, that this was a one-time deal, that nowhere else would I ever see this blemish on the English language. Oh, how wrong I was all those years ago. 

Gonna is not a word; it’s merely a verbal laziness of going to. It’s certainly an arrangement of letters, but so is laxcfpoaweuooooxjrogfnae. Merely an arrangement does not a word make.

We often hear I’m going to finish this memo tomorrow said as I’m gonna finish this memo tomorrow or He said he’s going to be late on Thursday as He said he’s gonna be late on Thursday.

While this is usually a pronunciation error, I have seen it as a written grammar error with more frequency over the years. How did this non-word make the transition from spoken to written error? Maybe we should blame the record industry since every artist from Bessie Smith to Blondie to U2 to Gnarls Barkley has drummed this mispronunciation into our collective head. No, I don’t think that we can blame them for this one.

Regardless, gonna is not a word—it’s merely a pronunciation gone wrong.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever;

Sherry’s Grammar List

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