How to Use Go +Ing (the Gerund) to Describe Fun Activities

Mini English Lesson - Describing Leisure Activities Using Go and -Ing (Gerund)

In English, we use the grammar structure go +ing to talk about leisure activities, or activities we do in our free time.

The go + gerund grammar structure confuses most language learners, from beginners to fluent speakers! 

Most non-native speakers have trouble with this structure because it includes the verb “to go” plus the -ing form of the action verb (the gerund).

We are used to using the infinitive form after “go” when describing future plans, so many English learners accidentally add “to” when trying to use the go +ing structure.

For example, even my most advanced students sometimes say, “I am going to shopping this weekend.”

What they actually want to say is, “I am going shopping this weekend.”

As the graphic above shows you, the verb “to go” changes based on the subject and desired tense.

The “-ing” form of the verb stays the same, no matter what tense you use!

Here are some more examples:

  • Present Simple: He goes running every day after work.
  • Present Continuous: They are going skiing this afternoon.
  • Present Perfect: I have gone camping five times this summer.
  • Present Perfect Continuous: She has been going hiking a lot recently.
  • Future with “To Be Going To”: My sister is going to go surfing in Peru next year.
  • Future with “Will”: Sure, I’ll go shopping with you!
  • Past Simple: We went horseback riding during our last vacation.

It is important to mention that go +ing is used to indicate the whole activity.

When I talk about going swimming, I am describing the entire experience – wearing a swimsuit, putting on sunscreen, going to the pool or beach, swimming laps or enjoying the waves, getting wet, drying off afterwards.

Go +ing gives us a mental image of the complete activity.

(For more information on how to know when to use the gerund and when to use the infinitive, be sure to check out my post on recognizing when to use them!)

If I just wanted to talk about the action of swimming, I would simply use the verb “to swim.”

For example, “I swam ten laps in the pool today.”

In this case, I am only describing the action of swimming, not the experience.

Finally, we use go +ing with verbs that are NOT followed by an object.

For example, it is not possible to say “I’m going playing cards this weekend.”

“Cards” is the object of the verb “play,” so the structure no longer works.

Instead, we would say, “I’m playing cards this weekend.”

Because go +ing is so common in English (especially when making small talk about weekend plans), it is extremely important to use it correctly.

Improving your usage of go +ing is an easy way to sound more natural in English.

Your Turn

In the comments below, answer this question with an activity using the go +ing grammar structure: What are you going to do this weekend?

Want to use grammar more naturally? Click here to explore my other resources on using grammar structures like a native speaker.

33 thoughts on “How to Use Go +Ing (the Gerund) to Describe Fun Activities”

  1. I am going to go studying English language this weekend and I am going to preparing my English presentation for next Monday. My presentation goes about the British New Year celebrations, some old Scottish habits during that time and some New Year’s resolutions.

    • Hi Ronald! We actually don’t say “go studying” – this grammar structure is only used for physical activities like “go bowling” or “go swimming.” In addition, you would say “I am going to prepare for my presentation next Monday” because you’re using “going to” to talk about a future plan. A lot of people confuse these two structures, but they are actually different uses of “go.” I encourage you to re-read the lesson and try another example!

      • Both of these uses of go +ing are correct, but we don’t use the preposition “on” with this weekend. This weekend is a special case where there’s no preposition.

  2. I am going swimming.
    I am going to go swimming.
    please ca you tell me what is the correct one? or both are correct

    • Both are correct – good job! The first one would be used for something that is happening in the very near future (right about now), and the second would be for something happening in the near future (usually with a specific mention of when).

  3. HI
    I UNDRESTAND THAT GO+ING is use for activities for fun in our free time in near future?is it right?

    • In general, go +ing/gerund is used for free time activities. But you can use this form with any verb tense, changing the form of “go.” For example, “I went running this morning” or “We’re going to go kayaking next summer.” Hope that helps!

    • No, it’s not. “Show” is not one of the verbs we use with this grammar construction. We would say “Go show her how to do that” or “Go tell him that we’re ready.”

  4. This was a very informative article. From now on, I will visit this page before teaching any grammar 😁

  5. What a great explanation for Non-native English learners even teachers !!
    I sincerely appreciate everything you share here.
    Thank you so much, again!

    -JC from Korea

    • You’re right – this is equally as helpful for teachers who need to explain this common structure! I’m happy my resources have been helping you.

  6. Hi,
    My daughter’s teacher has taught them they need to use the ING form after to go. I definitely don’t agree with this, and totally think Go + verb ING is used to talk about activities, like to go fishing, etc.
    This is what she has aksed the students to write in their notebooks:
    A:”I’m tired!”
    B: “Why don’t you go sleeping?”
    Thinking that my daughter had made a mistake in copying the lesson, I told her the B phrase was wrong and that it should be :” Why don’t you go sleep” or “Why don’t you go to sleep?”
    She wrote it down and asked her teacher, who responded both my suggestions were wrong and “Why don’t you go sleeping?” wass the only correct way of making this suggestion.
    Can you please confirm which proposition is correct?
    I really don’t see when we’d use “to go sleeping”
    Thanks a lot

    • You’re correct – we would not use the word “sleep” in this particular construction. I would say, “Why don’t you go to sleep?” You’re also right that people will sometimes say “Why don’t you go sleep?” or “Why don’t you go play?”, but this is a more informal, everyday expression, used in casual speech. You’ll also hear us say, “Why don’t you go to bed?” This is a confusing language construction, and I’m glad you’re helping your daughter learn the correct way to say it!

  7. Hi Kim, I find it very useful and easy to understand, hope you can keep doing works like this.
    My sentences could be: I love to go riding bicycle with my buddies. Is it ok? please let me know it.

    • I’m glad this helped you! To say your example the right way, you can simply say “I love to go biking with my buddies.” Remember, we don’t use this particular structure with verbs that require an object.

  8. With regards to the present continues, They are going skiing this afternoon. I thought we use this when we are doing it at the time of speaking? If not, I play the guitar, but I’m not playing now. Please explain more about “this afternoon” phrase. thank you!^^

  9. Would it be correct if I say, “I’m going to hunt a tiger”? ‘A tiger’ is the object here according to the rule you explained above. Thank you.

    • Yes, that’s correct. You’re being specific about what you’re planning to hunt. You’d say “I’m going hunting” if you’re simply talking about the activity.

  10. Is it correct to say “Every day I get up early and go running for 20 minutes”? It’s said that we can’t add a period of time after “go” since it’s a non-durative verb.

    • Yes, you can say that you “go running for 20 minutes.” I can think of other examples where people will use a period of time after “go,” such as “I go to the gym for 20 minutes every day after work” and “He’s going to Europe for three months next summer.” However, it would not make sense to say something like “They go for three hours.” But you could say “They go hiking for three hours every Saturday.” In my experience, most rules in English are not absolute and always depend on usage in context.

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