So I searched before and found thread are related for my question:

Reference: ELL question on "How about going to the cinema tonight?"

But it hasn't solved my question. ( by the way is it correct sentence? if I meant that problem not solved in the past but still in the present.)


how about going to see her?

I can't find the tense and it pretty confused. because I know that,

wh- + an auxiliary verb + subject + main verb + ing => Present progressive.

I saw going for me it looks related to present progressive, but why the formulation is pretty different? where can I find extra details about this questions style?


5 Answers 5


Short answer - future tense.

How about going out?

This is a question, and you are proposing to go out in the future - possibly the immediate future, possibly later, but either way you haven't begun "to go" out yet, so it can only be in the future. Also, the tense is conditional - it depends if the person you ask agrees.

I can see your confusion - many verbs ending with -ing are the present tense, for example:

  • I will dig a hole (future)
  • I am digging a hole (present)
  • I dug a hole (past)

Remember though that the present tense of many verbs also describes an ongoing or continuous action. Let's say that digging a hole will take 4 hours and you want to tell someone that you will busy with this all afternoon - you would say:

I will be digging a hole all afternoon.

That shows that the future action of digging will be ongoing throughout the afternoon. If you simply said "this afternoon I will dig a hole" it does not carry the same information as to how long it will take.

Likewise there are other ways of saying you are going somewhere in the future:

  • I am going out tonight
  • I will be going to the party

Both of these are conditional on either it being a specific time of day or the correct time for a specific event.

  • How about + gerund does not contain a tense per se. It is a spoken form.
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2018 at 16:23

There is no tense. going is free of tense and can fit into statements about the future or the past.

What shall we do tomorrow?
-- How about going to the zoo?


It was so boring when we visited them last week. We couldn't think of anything fun to do.
-- How about going to the zoo? Was it closed?

Here is a form that cannot be used with a past context but only with the future:

What shall we do?
-- How about we go to the zoo?

or as an alternative to "how about":

-- What say we go to the zoo?

  • Another set of examples: I was going to see her. I am going to see her. I will be going to see her. That's the exact phrase in question, in past, present, and future tense constructions. The -ing form marks a continuous or progressive aspect, but it takes another verb in the construction to mark tense. Dec 28, 2018 at 15:00
  • @Lambie: That's just you. How about closing the windows? Did you think to do that when it started to rain? Dec 28, 2018 at 16:37
  • @Lambie: There are plenty of contexts where the complement of how about would not be shortened to a simple noun phrase like "the windows". A parent could be haranguing a teen, say, about all the things he or she had failed to do. How about closing the windows when you got home.... how about taking the dog for a walk while we were away ... how about emptying the dishwasher before we got home .... and so on. Dec 28, 2018 at 17:16
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I disagree with you on this issue. Let's leave it. I said it would be shortened and the objection would be in the next utterance, if this were a past event.That is my opinion. For me, the idea with the gerund is alwayssomething that is to come, not something that has been or was. I would teach it like that too, as future directed.
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2018 at 18:10
  • @Lambie: I think you're allowing the prospective sense of how about and the frequent association of going with future contexts to improperly influence your understanding here. There's no problem with the past tense: google.com/… Dec 28, 2018 at 19:09

Let's say someone says this:

I'd like to go to the store on 3rd Street.

You can suggest a replacement to 3rd Street with how about:

How about we go to the one on 4th Street instead.

Because we're really modifying the question, we can use a participle / participial phrase.

How about going to 4th Street instead?

I believe going here is a verbal, not a normal verb per se - and is acting as a participle. When verbs act as modifiers, often participles are used, and they don't have a tense.

I think the technical term for this is "adverbial participial phrase" or something like that.

Similar in concept to answering Yes or No to questions - these words are adverbs, definitely not complete sentences, but you don't get the entire picture without knowing the question that was asked.


How about going to see her?

There's not a great deal that can be said about this construction.

The idiom "how about" belongs to informal style where it's used to put forward a suggestion. The complement of "about" can be a noun phrase as in "How about another drink", a non-finite (untensed) gerund-participial clause as in your example, or a tensed declarative clause as in "How about we leave the job until next week?"


How about + gerund is a spoken form. Not a written one.

It is used to make suggestions in conversation(s) or refer to them.

"How about going to a movie?"

Please note: going to a movie is a noun phrase. Like: staying home, playing tennis, listening to music.

It has no tense because the gerund is a noun.

"How about going to a movie?" is semantically equivalent to: "Why don't we go to a movie?".

As a form to make suggestions, the meaning is about some future that takes place after the time it is spoken but there is no verb or tense in it per se.

As is the case with other gerunds, it can take a possessive pronoun.

"Our leaving early is not a problem".

"How about our leaving early?" = Why don't we leave early?

  • Semantically equivalent doesn't make it the same. In your equivalent statement, the verb has been modified to "go". If you can modify it, it's a verb. Examples of gerunds, including yours, are spoken of posessively as if they have already happened - "our leaving early", or "do you ming my asking". You can't put a name to something that doesn't exist, likewise you can't make a noun out of a conditional future event that might not happen.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 28, 2018 at 14:25
  • @Astralbee The point I was making is this: I can say to you: How about leaving now? And I could also say, for the same idea: Why don't we leave now? How about is tenseless: How about our leaving now. How about +gerund is a spoken form. And I do not understand your post (here) and I believe you are misreading mine. I was specifically addressing: How about + gerund, with or without a possessive pronoun. These are spoken forms.
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2018 at 16:21

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