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

Let’s go back to basics and review a somewhat unusual grammar structure that trips up even fluent non-native speakers. I’m talking about the verb go + ing, also called go + gerund or go + verb + ing.

If you’ve been listening to native speakers, you’ve probably heard them say something like:

  • I’m going running after work.
  • I went shopping last night.
  • Let’s go dancing this weekend.

Many people find this grammar structure tricky because it goes against what you learn when you study the verb “go.”

“Go” should be followed by “to,” right? 🤔

That’s why I hear so many non-native speakers say “go to shopping,” even though it doesn’t work in this case.

Let’s talk about how and why we use go + ing.

We’ll also talk about how to stress it right so that you sound natural when talking about all these activities.


How to Use Go + Ing to Describe Fun Leisure Activities

First things first, we use “go” plus the -ing to describe leisure activities that we do in our free time.

A moment ago, I mentioned “running,” “shopping” and “dancing.”

In other words, we use go + ing to talk about activities that we do for fun.

You’ll notice that many of these activities are outdoor sports or activities that can be pretty physical, although we can also use go + ing with some indoor activities, as well as activities that involve collecting or hunting for things.

For example, we use this structure with these activities:

  • go running
  • go hiking
  • go camping
  • go kayaking
  • go skating.

You can also use this grammar construction with multiword activities, such as these:

  • go horseback riding
  • go mountain climbing
  • go scuba diving.

Like I said, you can use go + ing when talking about activities that involve hunting and collecting:

  • go shopping
  • go apartment hunting
  • go berry picking.

Why We Use Go + ing in English

Here’s what you need to understand about using go + ing:

We’re talking about the whole activity and the whole experience, not just the action described by the verb.

Think about everything that’s involved with going swimming: wearing a swimsuit, putting on sunscreen, walking or driving to the pool or the beach, swimming laps or enjoying the waves, getting wet and then toweling off afterwards.

When you say, “I’m going swimming,” we get a mental picture of that entire activity, not just the action of swimming.

Go + ing gives us a mental image of the entire activity, start to finish.

If I just wanted to talk about the action of swimming, then I would say that: I swam 10 laps in the pool before work.

In that example, I’m just talking about the action I did to achieve those 10 laps.

(If you’re wondering about the origin of this unusual grammar structure, check out this interesting discussion. In short, it comes from Old English. You’ll sometimes hear it with the prefix “a-” in old songs, such as the popular Christmas carol “Here We Come A-Caroling.”)


How to Use the Go + ing Grammar Structure Correctly

Now let’s talk about using the go + ing grammar structure correctly.

We can conjugate the verb “go” into any verb tense, but the -ing form stays the same, no matter what.

Here are some examples in a number of different verb tenses:

  • Present Simple: He goes running every day after work.
  • Present Continuous: They‘re going bowling this weekend.
  • Present Perfect: I‘ve gone camping five times this summer.
  • Present Perfect Continuous: She‘s 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.
  • Conditional: If I lived near a lake, I would go kayaking more often.
  • Modal Verbs: We could go salsa dancing on Saturday.

How to Stress Go + ing Correctly

To say the go + ing structure more naturally, you want to stress it right.

In this case, think of “go” like any other auxiliary verb and treat it like a function word.

You’re going to stress the base form of the -ing verb:

  • SHOPping,
  • DANcing,
  • HIking.

Remember, when we stress a syllable, we make it longer, louder and higher in pitch, with an extra clear vowel sound.

When you have multiword verbs, stress the right syllable of the first word:

  • SALsa dancing,
  • HORSEback riding,
  • aPARTment hunting.

You’ll stress the rest of the content words normally. Let’s go back to the examples and try stressing them correctly:

  • He goes RUNning Every DAY after WORK.
  • They’re going BOWLing this WEEKend.
  • I’ve gone CAMPing FIVE TIMES this SUMmer.
  • She’s been going HIking a LOT REcently.
  • My SISter is GOing to go SURFing in PeRU NEXT YEAR.
  • SURE, I’ll go SHOPping with YOU!
  • We went HORSEback riding during our LAST vaCAtion.
  • If I LIVED near a LAKE, I would go KAyaking MORE OFten.
  • We could go SALsa dancing on SAturday.

Don’t Overuse Go + ing

Now that you better understand how to use go + ing, here’s a word of caution.

When people first learn this grammar structure, they tend to overuse it with verbs that just don’t fit.

There are a lot of verbs we use it with, but not all.

It’s important to remember that we use go + ing with verbs that are not followed with an object.

If the verb needs an object, you can’t use go + ing.

For example, it’s not possible to say this: I’m going playing cards this weekend.

Yes, it’s a fun leisure activity, but the word “cards” is the object of the verb play. It doesn’t work.

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

We also wouldn’t say: I went studying English at the library.

Besides the fact that studying probably isn’t a leisure activity, it also takes an object.

Instead, you’ll say the following: I studied English at the library yesterday.

We can’t say: I’m going to go practicing piano. Just say: I’m going to practice piano.

Activities We Describe With Go + Ing / Go + Gerund

To review, here are some of the most common activities that we use with go + ing.

While watching the video, be sure to listen for the stress in each example.

List of Common Activities We Use with Go + Ing:

  • go running
  • go walking
  • go hiking
  • go trekking
  • go backpacking
  • go climbing
  • go mountain climbing
  • go snowshoeing
  • go skiing
  • go snowboarding
  • go ice skating
  • go rollerblading
  • go skating
  • go roller skating
  • go inline skating
  • go biking
  • go mountain biking
  • go bike riding
  • go surfing
  • go swimming
  • go sailing
  • go kayaking
  • go paddleboarding
  • go fishing
  • go scuba diving
  • go horseback riding
  • go bowling
  • go dancing
  • go salsa dancing
  • go swing dancing
  • go shopping
  • go hunting
  • go bargain hunting
  • go apartment hunting
  • go job hunting
  • go apple picking
  • go berry picking

If you can think of any others, please leave them in the comments.

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

Now that we’ve looked at a long list of activities that we can use with the verb go + ing, try using one in an example in the comments.

If you’re still not sure if we can use go + ing with a certain verb, leave a comment and let me know which verb you’re wondering about. I’ll let you know if it makes sense in this context.

For more practice with other tricky grammar structures, check out my video on how to pronounce phrasal verbs in American English with the right stress and linking. 
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2016, AND WAS UPDATED IN DECEMBER 2019.
Mini English Lesson - Describing Leisure Activities Using Go and -Ing (Gerund)

64 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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).

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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • 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.”

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

    Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!^^

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  11. Hi Kim, Thanks very much for the useful information you shared.
    I would like to ask if can we use “play something” as a leisure activity in the same structure.
    “I am going to go playing basketball tomorrow”
    “I am going to go to play basketball tomorrow.”
    Which one is correct?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Thanks for the thoughtful question! No, we can’t use “play something” in these examples. If the verb needs an object, you can’t use go + ing. This means you can say “I’m going to play basketball tomorrow” or even “I’m playing basketball tomorrow.” I talk more about how to use “play” in this article: https://englishwithkim.com/use-play-sports-games/

      Reply
  12. Hi Kim
    Thanks a lot for your help. I really appreciate it.
    How can we use the structure after preposition? For example, is it right the following?
    “We are planning on going swimming this weekend?
    Thsnks in advance.

    Reply
  13. Hi,
    First of all, thank you. Nice explanation. I’m not a native speaker, and don’t know grammar much, but “We go hunting birds every winter.”, sounds to me more natural than “We go to hunt birds every winter.”, and an object is used directly after “hunting”, could you please clarify this? Would it be correct to say “hunting birds” in the case mentioned above? Or still an object should be avoided?

    Reply
    • Hi Albert! As I mentioned, we do not use this structure when there’s an object following the verb. You would either say “We go hunting every winter” or “We hunt birds every winter.” You will not use the base form of the verb after “go to.” Hope that helps!

      Reply
  14. Dear Kim, thanks for the great article. Could I say ”I love/like going swimming/shopping/hiking with my friends?”

    Reply
  15. Hello, how to say 2 things together.
    Going camping and going hiking is fun?
    Going camping and going hiking are a lot of fun?
    Which is right ? Thank you.

    Reply
    • If you have two gerunds with “going,” then you want to use the plural form of the verb: Going camping and going hiking are a lot of fun.

      Reply
  16. Hi Kim,
    Is this sentence correct? it is in a learning language book from Cambridge,
    “You are going to listening to Mark and Jane discussing the food festival”

    Reply
    • If this is from a language learning book, it looks like a typo. It should say “going to listen to.” You have a great eye for noticing that mistake!

      Reply
  17. Hello, thanks for the explanation… Im having a hard time telling the differences between:
    “I always go swimming” vs. ” I always go to swim”
    “Sometimes I go skiing in winter” vs. “Sometimes I go to ski in winter”
    And even with an example you used above: “My sister is going to go surfing in Peru next year” … what would be the difference with ” My sister is going surfing in Peru next year”

    Reply
    • “I always go swimming” and “Sometimes I go skiing in winter” are correct. We do not say “go to swim” or “go to ski.” With regards to the example, both would be okay. Whether you use “going to go surfing” or “going surfing” would depend on how far this trip is in the future. If it’s November or December, it would be okay to say “going surfing” because “next year” is just a month or two away. If it’s earlier in the year, it would be more natural to say “going to go surfing” since the plan is in the more distant future.

      These two articles will help you understand why: https://englishwithkim.com/future-forms-decisions-predictions/ and https://englishwithkim.com/present-future-meaning-plans-schedules/

      Reply
  18. i like skiing / i like to ski / i like to go skiing… I can´t tell which one is the correct. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  19. Hi Kim,
    I’m Silvia, English teacher from Mexico. I want to say I am very impressed with your page. Simply loved it! and find it very clear, informative, practical and very useful for students and non-native speakers of English.
    Regards,
    Silvia

    Reply
    • Both sentences are grammatically correct. Which one is better depends on context. We generally use the present continuous with a future meaning when talking about plans we have already made for the near future (tomorrow, this weekend, this month). We can use “going to” in those situations as well, but we can also say something like “I’m going to go biking as often as possible this fall.”

      Reply
  20. thank a million Kim am really intrested in you explainations i real apriciate it because it moved me some where by giving me much understanding

    Reply
  21. Thanks Kim, you are really wonderful. I have gained a lot from your explanation.
    But pls, can you explain what a catenative verb is for me? And if there is an article or link that deals with semantic implications of the catenative verb, pls I need it. Thanks alot

    Reply
    • Catenative verbs are those that can be directly followed by another verb, like “like” or “enjoy.” I would encourage you to do a Google search for the fine details of your request, as this seems like something a linguist would be interested in exploring.

      Reply

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