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Please tell me, can I say "I go to a movie (I mean a film)"? Because we go to a place not to a film. I saw this sentence in "Tactics for listening":

I went to a really dumb movie.

First of all, "movie" here refers to a film not a cinema.

  1. Can we use "went" with "film"?
  2. What happens if I use "go" with "film", I mean in present tense does it work?
  3. Can I use it in both formal and informal context?
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    You can go to a doctor, a dentist, to church, to confession, to college (or university), and yes, even to a movie (or a film). The preposition to is a remarkably flexible little beast, for all that it's just two letters long. It's probably a figurative use in some sense, but it's a usage that has had a lot of practice over the centuries. Don't let literal-mindedness get in the way of free-flowing English.
    – Robusto
    Dec 27, 2022 at 5:55
  • Thank you. And I can use it in both formal and informal context?
    – Sara2023
    Dec 27, 2022 at 6:07
  • "Went" is only the simple past of "go". We are going to a national conference --> We went to a national conference. Although on second thoughts, attended sounds better, so formality depends on the event being visited or participated.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 27, 2022 at 12:01

2 Answers 2

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Language is flexible, and one (among many) flexibilities is to create meaning by hinting at something instead of outright saying it. This is called "figurative" meaning.

Actually, a "film" is called a "film", because historically it consisted of rolls of long celluloid strips with some pigment on it. Shine light through and the picture is projected onto a wall. Move the strip fast enough and the illusion of movement occurs. This is not how these things work nowadays (we have digital means of storing information), but we still call it "film".

Figurative speaking makes for simpler expressions because often the essence of what you want to convey can be transported in much more concise way:

I go to Rome.

This does not necessarily mean i "go" the whole way: some part I drive, some part I fly, some part I indeed go and so on. Still, you get what i intended to say, yes?

For the same reason you can (and should!) say

I saw a film

instead of

I saw the decoding of a digitally stored MP-4 file

you can say

I went to a movie

instead of

I went to a specialised place where MP-4-files are decoded for a large audience.

The latter one would be technically correct and still outright ridiculous.

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  • Thank you for helpful explanations.
    – Sara2023
    Dec 27, 2022 at 7:07
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I'd actually use "I went to see a movie" or "I went to a movie theatre", but the earlier speakers are right in that it is grammatically correct.

Usage Notes: Movie is used in North America, while film is used elsewhere. North Americans normally use film as a verb (the video was filmed yesterday) or in reference to the physical material that movies were stored on (this uses 5-millimeter film).

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  • Thanks a bunch for sharing your idea.
    – Sara2023
    Jan 4, 2023 at 5:10

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