There are several ways of expressing future time in English. Will + Infinitive is considered to be a neutral future expression. The construction BE going to + Infinitive is especially common in spoken English, where it is often contracted gonna. Leech (2004) lists three different meanings of BE going to. It may refer to the future outcome of present intention, the future outcome of present cause, or serve as a neutral future auxiliary like will.
Based on the Contrastive Interlanguage Model, this thesis investigates how BE going to is used in writing by Norwegian learners of English, and aims to test the hypothesis that Norwegian learners may have difficulties using the construction correctly. A corpus-based study of future constructions in English and Norwegian serves to predict what could be problematic for Norwegian learners of English. A second study compares material from NICLE, which is a Norwegian learner corpus, and LOCNESS, which is a corpus of native English students’ essays. Each example is analysed for 1) Semantic group (Intention, Prediction, Cause), 2) Animacy of subject (Human, non-human, inanimate) and 3) Grammatical person (first person singular, first person plural, second person singular etc.).
The hypothesis that Norwegian learners of English have difficulties using the construction correctly is at least partly shown to be false. The NICLE material shows that the Norwegians in fact are aware of the different meanings BE going to may imply, and they are able to use the construction in the right contexts. However, the Norwegian learners overuse BE going to as a reference to future outcome of present intention, mainly because of the typical Norwegian way of introducing the essay topic by referring to the writer’s intentions for the paper. Native speakers of English also tend to use the construction as a neutral future auxiliary more often than the Norwegian learners do.