If you say "something is about to happen" or "something is going to happen", you mean that "it will happen very soon" :

The man is about to die.

The man is going to die.

What is the difference between the two sentences, both in structure and in meaning?

2 Answers 2


"About to" implies immediacy. "Going to" could be any time in the future. We are all going to die. Not all of us are about to die.

  • 2
    I don't hear any connotation of "intention" or "determination" in "going to". It's simple futurity. May 2, 2020 at 11:25
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    In that case, it's the "saying" that carries the intention/determination. The "going to" is simply the future. Consider: If he is trying to climb Mount Everest, and I say "He is going to succeed.", is that expressing intention or determination on anyone's part? May 2, 2020 at 11:41
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    I am going to can imply intention, but You are going to enjoy that ice cream and It is going to rain are just predictions of what will happen. See the first definition provided by Collins. May 2, 2020 at 11:52
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    "Another use of the going to is to predict the future on the basis of present evidence : Look at the sky. It's going to rain". [Michael Swan] .On the basis of the present evidence of Corona virus pandemic situation only, you can now say : "We are all going to die". May 2, 2020 at 11:53
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    We don't need coronavirus to predict that everybody is going to die (eventually) on the basis of current evidence. But there are a range of uses of "going to" and they overlap with other future tenses. Often "I will" and "I'm going to" mean the same.
    – James K
    May 2, 2020 at 13:32

From this discussion, we can draw the following conclusion:

'About to" implies "IMMEDIACY". "The man is about to die" means "The man is on the verge of death : he will die immediately.

But "The man is going to die", here, means that there are certain present situation or evidence on the basis of which you can PREDICT that he will die quite soon .

Michael Swan says that "be going to + Infinitive" structure often emphasises the idea of intention. However, there is no connotation of intention in the sentence, "The man is going to die." In other words, "going to die" doesn't necessarily mean "intending to die".

And another interesting point is that both the sentences convey that he will die, but one (about to...) will occur sooner than the other (going to...).

  • 2
    Please don't answer your own questions! It's unlikely that anyone would interpret 'going to die' as 'intending to commit suicide'. May 2, 2020 at 14:17
  • There's still no connotation of intention in "The man is going to die.:" None. May 2, 2020 at 18:36
  • (1) The man is about to die --->> The man will die immediately. (2) The man is going to die --->> It is predicted that the man will die soon. Are these two explanations ok? May 3, 2020 at 6:20

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