1

go

[...]

3 (be going to be/do something) Intend or be likely or intended to be or do something; be about to (used to express a future tense)

(from here)

fix

[...]

4 (be fixing to do something) US dialect Be intending or planning to do something

(from here)

What's the difference (apart from the fact that the latter is mainly used by African-Americans and Eminem)? How do they differ semantically? The dictionary didn't help me much.

2

I am a member of this dialect community. More specifically, I'm a member of one of several communities that use (and differentiate between) "fixin' to" and "gonna"; this bit of dialect entered American English in the South, and spread to other parts of the country during various diaspora. I lived in the deep South (in a heavily African American portion) during ages 0-3, then 9-18, so it's as close to my native tongue as it gets for me.

There are two main differences between "fixin' to"/"finna" and "going to"/"gonna". The first and biggest is immediacy: "I'm fixin' to make myeslf a sandwich; you want one?" vs "I'm gonna make myself a sandwich when I get home." "Fixin' to"/"finna" is something that you are just about to start doing, whether it's a quick process ("I'm finna grab a beer") or a slow process ("I'm finna buy that house, soon as I can get the realtor on the phone"). "Gonna" implies no immediate action, although it doesn't rule it out either: "I'm gonna retire to Destin."

The second difference is formality. Southerners do (or at least almost always eventually learn to) switch between dialect modes, and can go into formal mode when the situation calls for it. "Gonna" is simply how the words "going to" sound, when spoken in the appropriate accent; it's neither intrinsically formal nor informal. "Fixin' to"/"finna" however, is always informal. You'd use it with friends and peers (or when a fight is fixin' to start) but probably shouldn't use it when meeting disapproving parents or asking your boss's boss for a favor or doing a college interview. If you did, they'd probably understand and graciously ignore it, but they'd certainly notice and their estimation of you might go down.

ETA: "Fixin' to"/"finna" can also be conditional or dependent: "I'm finna get a hot dog, after this club" means that immediately after leaving the club, that person will seek out and get a hot dog. Additionally, both terms can be used together: "If you don't get up out my face, it's gon' be finna be a fight up in here."

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  • It's not advisable to use 'fixing to'/'finna' if you're not African-American, is it? – Sergey Zolotarev Jan 29 at 0:07
  • 1
    In the American South, all races speak speak the same dialect within their region. There are a few--a TINY few--terms that are more acceptable coming from one race (such as 'nappy'), but 'fixin' to'/'finna' isn't on that short list. If you're outside of that area, and don't have a genuine Southern accent, it's probably only acceptable to use that dialect if you're African-American. – Elena House Jan 31 at 0:02
3

The key difference is "US dialect". This means that, unless you are a member of a community that uses that dialect (Southern US, especially African American), you should always use the standard form "I'm going to ...". Using the dialect term would be confusing, and people will tend to assume that you have made a mistake.

"fixing to" and especially "finna" are not well understood by the general community.

My dad started using "finna". I'm finna have to explain it to mom.

How will you know if you are a member of a dialect community? If you need to ask this question, then you are not a member.

Semantically there a difference, they can both indicate future plans. However "going to" is also used to indicate the future tense, with no suggestion of "intention":

I think it's going to rain. (normal)

I think it's fixing to rain. (somewhat odd)

Use of "gonna" and "finna" are restricted to very causal situations. These are not usually written forms.

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