Present Continuous vs. Going to

There are similarities and differences between present continuous and going to, which might cause confusion. To learn more, click here!

What is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between present continuous and 'going to' in past and future is in their time factors. Present continuous refers to actions and events happening at this moment, and 'going to' can refer to both past and future.

Uses and Comparison

1. Future Plans

We can use both present continuous and 'going to' in past and future form to talk about plans or arrangements. While future with 'going to' and present continuous talk about future plans, past with 'going to' refers to past plans that mostly did not happen.

I am visiting my mother this weekend.

Here, we are talking about a future plan that is preplanned.

I am going to visit my mother this weekend.

Here, we talk about preplanned action that will soon be fulfilled.

I was going to visit my mother this weekend.

Here, we are referring to an action that planned to happen but somehow it failed to occur.

2. Present Actions

We use present continuous to refer to ongoing actions from the present. These actions are in progress right now and at the moment of speaking.

I am studying grammar.

Here, we are referring to an action happening right now and at this moment.

I was going to study grammar.

Here, we are referring to an action that was set to happen in the past but failed to occur.

I am going to study grammar.

Here, we are talking about a plan for the future.

3. Prediction

We use the past and future form of 'going to' to talk about predictions. Past form refers to events that were predicted to happen in the past. Future form refers to a prediction in the future that we know for sure will happen.

It is so cloudy. It is going to rain soon.

Here, we are referring to a guess about the weather.

It is sunny. I thought it was going to rain.

Here, we talk about a prediction that did not occur.

It is so cloudy. It is raining soon.

Here, we have an action that is in progress and not a prediction.

4. Frequent Actions

When we want to talk about a series of repeated actions or events, we use present continuous tense with 'always,' 'forever,' constantly.'

They are constantly complaining about everything.

Here, we are talking about an ongoing frequent action done by the subject.

They are going to constantly complain about everything.

Here, we are foreseeing that an action will be done by the subject

They were going to constantly complain about everything.

Here, we are talking about an action that could have been done but it was not fulfilled.

5. Near Future

When we want to talk about events that are about to happen or started happening, we use future form of 'going to.'

She is going to fail this test.

Here, we are talking about a future event that is at the verge of happening.

She is failing this test.

Here, we are talking about an ongoing action.

She was going to fail this test.

Here, we are talking about an unfulfilled action in the past.

Structure

Now that we talked about uses and compared the two tenses let us talk about structure.

1. Present Continuous Tense

In order to create present continuous tense, we use the present simple of the verb 'to be' followed by the present participle of the main verb. Look at the following pattern for clarity: subject + to be + gerund + complement or object.
Now pay attention to the following table:

Subject Verb to be Present Participle
I am talking
You/We/They are cooking
He/She/It is drinking

2. Going to

As mentioned earlier, we can use 'going to' with both past and future. We will cover both right now:

2.1. Past with 'Going to'

We tend to follow a certain structure while creating the past tense 'going to.' We use any subject with was or were followed by 'going to' and an infinitive verb. Look at the following pattern for clarity: subject + was/were + going to + infinitive verb

I was going to cook dinner.

She was going to help him out.

2.2. Future with 'Going to'

To create this tense we tend to use 'going to' followed by the base form of the verb.

They are going to make him talk.

He is going to ask her out.

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