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I recently had a friend text me "ima go to [the local pub]. U in?" I understood it just fine as meaning "I'm going to", but being an old fogey, I'm not sure if this is just txtspk or if ima is something people actually say.

Is this just a texting abbreviation? If people really say this, how common is it and where is it mostly used? For instance, can I say it at the office, like "Ima get the spec to you by Thursday." Or is it more casual than that?

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It's mainly a spoken form which belongs to some dialects, but not to standard English. It's definitely informal, and I'd suggest not using it in your office example. In fact, I wouldn't recommend using it at all, except to transcribe the word when someone says it.

Is it an abbreviation? Yes. It's usually short for "I'm going to", though in the phrase "I'mma gonna" I think it's a replacement for "I'm". Usage and spelling vary considerably.

EDIT: See comments; apparently some people consider it a standard contraction in spoken English, though I disagree. Regardless, it's definitely non-standard to write it this way.

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  • Wordnik would back you up – it lists Imma as a "contraction of I'm gonna, that is, I am gonna or I am going to", and Ima as a variant that can also serve as a "non-standard" synonym for I'm.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 2:08
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    Garsh, Mickey, Ima speaker of standard English & I say things like "Ahmuhnnago [= I am going to go] to the store later" allatime. Who the hell says "I am going to go" when not on stage delivering a formal speech or slowly repeating what someone couldn't understand? Your friend, Goofy.
    – user264
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 2:57
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    @BillFranke "I'm going to go" certainly contracts in standard English, but I think "Imma" is eye dialect for a particular non-standard contraction seen in AAVE and some other dialects, which has its own usage distinct from standard contractions like the one you just wrote. I don't have this "imma" in my idiolect; I can't say any of the examples on this page: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Citations:Imma
    – user230
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 3:05
  • @snailplane: I often use/encounter it in mock-Italian gangster "I'm a gonna smasha ya face in" contexts, but that's by no means the only place it crops up. It's pretty widespread and not "dialectal" in the UK. Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 3:14
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    @Snailplane: I'd agree that all those examples look like AAVE dialog, & I don't think I say "Ima goin' to the store", but y'all prolly don't know how the country folk in the SE USA say it: I used to live there, but it's been more than half a lifetime, so I done plum furgot. Anyways, it's strickly spoken English &, IMHO, shuun't be written 'cept in Twain, Faulkner, and Ishmael Reed imitations. OP should say "I'll get the spec to you by Thursday." That seems to be his natural idiom. It's certainly mine. Never parrot other people's speech patterns unless you understand their social value.
    – user264
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 3:29
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It is used all the time in informal spoken English. I don't notice whether people say "I'm-a go," "I'm-unna go," "I'm gonna go," or "I'm going to go" when I am talking to them, but they all sound perfectly normal to me. I know I probably use each of those frequently. Of course, you can only use it when it is expressing future tense and not other uses of the words "going to," so, as an example, you can say, "I'm-a think about it," to mean, "I'm going to think about it," but you couldn't say "I'm-a the party" to mean "I'm going to the party."

And although I would never use it when texting, I know some people do all the time. I really dislike "text-speak."

It would sound weird to me to hear "I'm-a gonna," though. I would never use that and I've only heard it when someone was mimicking a Southern or Italian accent.

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    Which informal spoken English is it used in? It is not used here in England or the rest of the UK.
    – Tristan
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 16:52
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I first heard Dixie Carter say "Ima" on "Designing Women", and sometimes it would be a bit longer, as "I'monna", which is more obviously shortened from from "I'm gonna", which of course was shorted from "I'm going to." I always say "I'm going to" and do not shorten it. I've said it that way all my life and see no need to change. Also, if you are speaking with someone who has ESL, it makes it easier for them to understand. This construction is considered the progressive tense (using the verb "to be"). It is even more common in Spanish as "Voy a..." in which case it is a form of the future tense, denoting a bit of uncertainty, especially in Latin America, accordining to my Spanish teacher from Guatemala.

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You asked how common it is and no one else has given location information, so I will.

I'm in the intermountain west area of the US, and around here it's extremely common to say "I'mma" or "I'monna". In speaking it's considered casual, but not so casual I wouldn't use it when talking to a coworker, and I probably wouldn't even notice if a coworker used it with me unless I was specifically looking for it. I would try to avoid it in more formal contexts, such as a presentation at work. However, in places where it's not common, its use would probably sound "rural" or "hickish".

In writing, it's extremely informal. I would never use it in an email, and in text only with my close friends and even then only when I'm being purposely informal.

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