I know that "go+doing" is mostly used to convey an activity, like in:

I go dancing/fishing/skiing etc. But it is not used with verbs which don't convey an idea of an activity.

So, "I go cooking" doesn't work.

However, I wonder whether it can be used in a different scenario. For example, it is OK to say

1) Don't go arguing with your mom all the time.

Can it be OK to use "go cooking" in the same vein?

2) Don't go cooking for him every time he pays us a visit.

Another question is about this sentence

3) Bob is going to go dancing.

I think it may mean two things

a) Bob is somewhere else and will go to the party soon, where he will dance. b) Bob is going to start attending a dancing class.

Do you agree or not?

2 Answers 2


Interesting question! I'm unsure how to answer it, but I'll tell what I've found out.

Don't go cooking for him every time he pays us a visit.

I've looked up Swan's "Practical English Usage", and its Unit 228 says that we use go with an -ing verb to describe activities with the following characteristics:

  1. People move about (dancing, climbing, skating).

"Cooking" seems almost to fit here - one could move about while cooking, although not to such an extent as in skating, maybe with very rare exceptions. You could object: "but one who is cooking is anchored to his appliances, to the table, the stove". But a skater could also be anchored to the skating rink and thus have his freedom to move about curtailed.

  1. There's no fixed beginning or end point to the activity.

This seems also almost to fit with "cooking" - especially in a bare sentence like "Oh, hang it all, I'll go cooking" (I will cook, and cook, and cook..). On the other hand, one cannot cook a single dish as long as one wishes. It has to become ready or spoiled at some particular moment.

Swan provides an example of a sentence where the "go .. ing" structure is used wrongly:

  • I'll go boxing. (Since a boxing match is an activity that has a definite beginning and end, the sentence is wrong, according to Swan).

And, when we add the next parts of your sentence, "for him" and "every time he pays us a visit", this seems to make the activity more definite in time coordinates. Each time he pays a visit, you'd want to start cooking. You'll likely finish when he leaves.

In the end, I'm unsure. Let's wait for what native English speakers will say. Maybe this "go cooking" gives additional emphasis to the sentence, implying that the person is ready to spend indefinite amounts of time cooking for the visitor, so dear the visitor is to him/her.

Or maybe the verb "cooking" by definition implies activities having a beginning and an end (when the dish has been cooked), and thus looks outlandish to the native speaker.

Maybe a native speaker will even read "I'll go cooking" as "I'll become cooked"?

  1. Just to cap it all, Swan also says that the third kind of situation where "go .. ing" structure is used is in talking about looking for or collecting things: "I think I'll go shopping this afternoon."

I would love to find the pages in Quirk et al. or Huddleston and Pullum where these constructions are described.

  • It's often used in the negative as noted by Webster, Longman, oxford etc, and used as a warning- so there might be two different usages here- go skiing, sailing etc [what you explore above] and this one, used for any sort of activity, particularly undesirable ones, and especially when showing disapproval, giving warnings, adivising someone against something etc. Merriam Webster's Learners' dictionary: go doing something: to engage in (doing something): Don't go telling everyone what happened. [=don't tell everyone what happened] || He went blabbing the news all over the place.
    – Daniel
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:15
  • [Macmillan]: used for telling someone not to do something: Take your time and don’t go rushing into anything. So the first and second examples are instances of the usage I've written about here in the comments, while the third one falls under what you've written in the answer above, to my mind.
    – Daniel
    Sep 24, 2018 at 18:19

On first blush, it seems that your #3 example might have two interesting uses of the verb "GO":

3) Bob is going to go dancing.

The first "GO" seems to have mostly a modal type of meaning, a meaning of intent which often involves the near future. This is similar to what is expressed by "gonna" and can usually be replaced by it when used in informal speech:

  • "Bob is gonna go dancing."

That is, it has the meaning that Bob intends in the near future to go dancing.

The 2nd "GO", though, will depend on the context and the sentence as to its sense of meaning, as it probably is a mixture of modal meaning of intent (involving a near future time situation) with that of another meaning, which itself could sometimes be a motion type of meaning that could be associated with the prototypical "GO" verb. That is, Bob might travel to go someplace in order to dance:

  • "Bob is gonna go [to the dance hall across town to dance]."

or even just go a few steps away to the dance floor:

  • "Bob is gonna go [dance]."

There might even be no movement (of location) involved at all:

  • "I'm finally gonna go (and) eat this donut that I've been holding in my hand for the last five minutes."

So, the uses of "GO" can be quite different from each other. Some people even think that some expressions involving "GO" are currently going through a grammatical change (e.g. "BE going to verb" --> "BE gonna verb").

But back to answering your question about your #3 example:

3) Bob is going to go dancing.

It seems that it could have various different possibilities in meaning, from one where it is that Bob intends in the near future to travel to someplace in order to dance there, to one where Bob intends in the near future to be dancing.

(CAVEAT: This post was written "off the top of my head", and done so before I've had any coffee.)

  • 1
    +1 The movement thing's very important to the OP's example, I think. To my over the pond ear, even "I'm gonna go eat this donut" sounds like s/he's gonna go eat it somewhere else (the kitchen/garden /other side of the room) - don't know if that's a British Isles thing ... If I wanted to escape from someone at a party I might say that - (although it'd have to be a veggie burger ...) Shouldn't be on here. 'Tis almost D-day. I'm off .... :) Oct 19, 2014 at 9:35
  • 1
    Erm, yes! you was right! Oct 19, 2014 at 9:36

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