What is the origin of “GO + VERB + ING”?

The construction GO + V + ING is among one of the first things a learner is taught. Take for instance the verb swim, very often English expresses the activity in the present simple like this:

I go swimming twice a week

This construction is used with any ‘outdoorsy’ or sport activity that employs a verb, such as:

He goes skiing whenever he can
She goes dancing with her friends.
We go walking every day
They go surfing at/on weekends.

The verb GO is inflected to express different tenses such as

He didn’t go swimming.
She’s going fishing in the morning.
We went bowling last night.
He’d gone hunting before.
They’ve just gone rock climbing.

Shopping and drinking seem to break the mould, they are neither sports nor games, but you can think of them as being “outdoor” or pastime activities. You can go drinking with your mates, and while many Italians believe lo shopping is only the activity that young girls do in boutiques; people also go shopping for food etc. And nowadays, we go shopping online.

They’ve gone shopping.
Let’s go drinking.

But GO + V + ING for the following activities is “ungrammatical” or dubious at best:

  1. *I go playing tennis regularly. (maybe this one’s OKish)
  2. *You go working twice a week.
  3. ?Let’s go criketing/baseballing/basketballing (etc.)
  4. *He goes cleaning his car at/on the weekend.
  5. ?She goes painting outdoors every Sunday.
  6. *You go washing up after dinner.
  7. *Let’s go eating out.
  8. *Let’s go seeing a movie.


  • What is the origin of GO + V + ING? When was this construction first noted?
  • Is this construction becoming increasingly flexible in English speaking countries?
  • Are the expressions go shopping and go drinking considered isolated/unique cases? I am particularly interested in hearing about activities that are unrelated to sports/games/outdoors but use GO + V + ING.
    For example, @pazzo’s suggestions: gamble and window shop.


The origin goes back to Old English, as far as the year 1000 or earlier (according to OED). OED gives OE (Old English) for the date section of the two earliest citations.


With participle indicating a concomitant action or activity.

Earliest citation:

Þa eodon hi sprecende ymbe þæs hælendes þrowunge him betwynan.

Ælfric of Eynsham, Catholic Homilies

Other examples in chronological order are: (OED)

  • eodon biddende, OE
  • eode singuynde, c1300
  • go wryȝinge, c1380
  • go hippinge, c1430
  • go walkyng, 1483
  • went preachyng, a1535
  • wente askyng & serchyng, 1548
  • go begging, 1615
  • went looking about, 1658
  • Went prancing, 1719
  • went mumping, 1775
  • went dancing, 1841
  • went sailing, 1895
  • went rushing down, 1930
  • went sprawling, 1988
  • went sniffing, 2013

OED mentions that the above definition is the formally similar sense of the following definition:

intr. To move, travel, or proceed (to somewhere) so as to perform a specified action, or for the purpose of a specified or implied activity.

    f. With verbal noun or gerund.

        (b) Without prefixed particle.

The earliest citation is from a1500:

Euery-on an hauke on honde ber, & went haukyng [c1330 Auch. riden on haukin] by þe ryuer.

Sir Orfeo, Harley

Other examples in chronological order are: (OED)

  • went hunting, 1658
  • have gone hunting and hawking, 1672
  • go Hunting or Hawking, 1707
  • go shooting of Birds, 1749
  • goes gunning , 1846
  • went gambling, 1861
  • ‘go clamming’, 1887
  • went automobiling, 1915
  • went fishing, 1933
  • going camping, 1960
  • go clubbing, 2003

OED also gives:

(a) With prefixed a (also †on) Now arch. and regional.

The earliest citation is from c1300:

Þis child scholde wende An hontingue.

St. Kenelm (Laud) 148 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary


It looks like this construction was first being used for actions, and then extended to activities. In OED, the earliest example with an outdoor activity is “go walking” (if we exclude the constructions with prefixed a). Then, we start seeing examples like “go hunting” starting from 1500s as sport-like activities. Although, the earlier form is with prefixed a. (go a hunting).

We are more familiar with this construction for sports and outdoor activities but it can be used with other leisure and indoor activities like bowling, shopping, dancing, clubbing etc.

Source : Link , Question Author : Mari-Lou A , Answer Author : Community

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