Ask Language Log: "Finna"

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From P.S.:

Today I was reading a story in the Washington Post (online) about a response to “The Passive Aggressive Neighbor & His Wife”.  It starts: “Re: I’m Finna Tell You What you Not Gon’ Do”  .

I am not sufficiently familiar with what I assume is AAVE and the expression "Finna". I was wondering if you had any more information. In particular I am wondering about the following:

  1. How is this pronounced? Presumably [fɪnə] judging by the spelling? '
  2. Where does this come from? Presumably it develops from something similar to "gonna" etc., but I can't think of any standard source.
  3. What is the interpretation?

This one is actually in the Oxford U.S. English Dictionary, Wiktionary, etc.; and as P.S. suspected, it's a kind of neo-aspectual particle akin to "gonna" (or plain "-a"). The source is "fixing to":

"going to"::"gonna"
"fixing to"::"finna"

I don't have native-speaker intuitions about "fixin to", which is widely used through the U.S. southern and border states. But I've heard it enough from relatives and friends to have formed the impression that the meaning of "fixing to" is more immediate than "going to", more similar to "about to". So

Some day I'm going be free and travel the world.

can refer to an indefinitely postponable future, whereas

?Some day I'm fixing be free and travel the world.

with the same meaning would be an odd thing to say. I don't know whether "finna" has developed further shades of aspectual meaning.

Probably ("prolly") the stages of finna reduction in IPA-ish are roughly


with a lexicalization or two along the way.

Note that the last stage of finna reduction is similar to the loss of phonetic [z] in "innit" — but are there any English varieties that have both finna and innit?

Alternatively, it's possible that the construction shifted lexically to "fitting to" at some point — or maybe it started that way? — and then lost the intervocalic voiced tap. [Update — on reflection, this seems more probable to me…]

The stages of gonna reduction — in the first person singular, assuming monophthongal "I" — are something like IPA-ish

ɐm goɪntə
ɐm goənə
ɐm gʌnə

again with various stages of lexicalization — and with the last step more limited in its distribution, so that I would normally pronounce "I'm going to" as  [ɐɪmənə] but not  [ɐɪmə]. My impression is that the final reduction of "fixing to" to finna, like this last stage of "going to" reduction, is limited to AAVE. But I could well be wrong about that.

For some discussion of related issues, see

"Twang scholar on 'The constraints of journalism'", 11/30/2003
"I'ma", 7/3/2005
"Alternative futures", 12/11/2008
"I'ma stay with the youngsters", 5/14/2010
"Ima", 1/11/2012
"I'm a?", 9/19/2009


  1. Cervantes said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 8:10 am

    Best article I've seen on this one is by K. Aaron Smith: "The History of be fixing' to: Grammaticization, Sociolinguistic Distribution and Emerging Literary Spaces." English Today 25.1 (2009): pp. 12-18.

  2. DCBob said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 8:25 am

    Well you certainly are finna tell us!

  3. Tye said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 8:36 am

    Fixin' to/Finna often introduces a threat or a bold course of action. "I'm fixin' to go down to the store and demand my money back." At least that was my impression from my time living in the South.

  4. mollymooly said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 8:58 am

    I don't know if monosyllabic "it'd" is ever dignified with its own spelling; the most likely candidates are "i'd" and "id", both of which are hard to Google.

  5. cs said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 9:36 am

    The version I remember hearing, growing up in the Oakland CA area, lost the 'x' in fixing but not the 't' in to as in "I fin' to…"

    [(myl) That would make especially good sense as a development from "fittin to".]

  6. guilty bystander said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 10:56 am

    If you have your left hand one key to the left of where it should be, "go" turns into "fi".

  7. Paul said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 11:36 am

    When I lived in Hyde Park, Chicago, I heard "finna" a lot. I'm from NW Indiana and white. The way I heard, it rhymes with "gonna," though I don't trust my IPA skills enough to type it properly.

    When I moved to NYC/NJ, and started hanging with linguists, and reading stuff about AAVE and whatnot, I asked said linguists about it, and they assumed I meant a "fixing to" derivative, perhaps even "fitna". Even my "Hoosier apex" and "acquired AAVE" friends from Michigan City, IN said "fitna"

    But then I visited Chicago again, and I distinctly heard "finna" multiple times. As best I can tell from direct conversation with native speakers of Chicago AAVE it simply indicates that the action is happening in the immediate future.

    Actual Example:
    "I'm finna get lunch. Are you coming?"

  8. Neil Dolinger said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

    Hopefully not going too far off-topic with this by referring back to the "I'ma /A'ma/A'm'na" construction….

    There is a Pop culture instance of this usage in the single "Yah Mo B There" by James Ingram and Michael McDonald from 1983.

  9. secretivek said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 2:06 pm

    While temporally, "fixing to" is closer to "about to" than to "going to", I believe that "finna"/"fixin' to" carries implications of "intend to" that are stronger than in "about to" and closer to that implication in "going to". (This intention may not be direct: "He's fixin' ta get his assed whupped" doesn't mean he wants to get his ass whupped, but it does suggest that he wants to continue the behavior that will lead to his ass getting whupped.")

  10. DWalker07 said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

    It seems to me (as a native speaker of American English) that it would be hard for non-native speakers to learn some aspects of English, such as "gonna" for "going to"; "woulda" for "would have", etc.

    Also, sometimes if I'm talking fast I'll say "Imuna" (with a long I) for "I'm gonna", and I don't have trouble being understood by other Americans.

    Also, we have odd phrases like "fixing to".

    Maybe it's not as hard as I think it is. Do other languages have similar cases where the "textbook" language doesn't match the actual spoken language?

  11. Rebecca said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 2:27 pm

    To my ear (non-AAVE speaker, but having grown up around it a lot as a kid), the "i" in "finna" is longer than the spelling would indicate in standard English. Not long in the diphthong sense of the so-called long i of the word I, but a longer-held short-i, more like "fiina" pronounced sort of Finnish like. Or maybe even rearticulated.

  12. Victor Mair said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 3:34 pm

    @guilty bystander

    "If you have your left hand one key to the left of where it should be, "go" turns into "fi"."

    Both hands one key to the left.

  13. David Morris said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 3:40 pm

    If you have both hands to the left for the whole word, you end up with fibb[caps lock].

  14. Karl said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 4:45 pm

    A Caucasian Texan, born approximately 1980, postgraduate education, who I know, has [fɪtnə] or [fɪdnə] for this, and he seems to mean something between "about to" and "ready to" by it.

  15. Robert said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

    So it looks like "I'm finna" is a variant of "Ima," a contracted contraction for "I'm gonna."

  16. Amy W said,

    November 4, 2016 @ 10:34 pm

    I say "fixing to" (but not finna), and I would consider it equivalent to "getting ready to" or "preparing to." Either I'm doing something that will bring the event about or I'm planning the event.

  17. speedwell said,

    November 5, 2016 @ 3:03 am

    American from Texas here. Compare these conversational bits:

    "I'm fixing to [finna] go to the store, y'all wanna come?"
    "Nah, I'm watching this show, you go on."

    "I'm gonna go to the store, y'all wanna come?"
    "Yeah, maybe after this show, tell me when you fixin' to [finna] go."

    In the first example, the person going to the store is going now and the other person perceives it as an interruption of what they are doing just then. In the second example, the person going to the store is thinking about going, and the other person is assuming that the first person is not just then ready to walk out the door, and suggesting a time more or less equivalent to "in a little while".

  18. Daniel Deutsch said,

    November 5, 2016 @ 5:04 am

    Does anyone ever say "fixing to" without dropping the g in fixing?

  19. Rodger C said,

    November 5, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

    @Daniel Deutsch: Not without sarcasm; it doesn't occur in that register.

  20. Joshua K. said,

    November 5, 2016 @ 11:00 pm

    The example sentences "Some day I'm going be free and travel the world." and "?Some day I'm fixing be free and travel the world." are both missing the word "to".

  21. Adam F said,

    November 6, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

    How about Country Joe and the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag"?

  22. chris said,

    November 6, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

    @Adam F: seems like that hinges on the immediacy expectation discussed in the OP. Everyone is going to die, but if you're fixing to die, that's much more serious.

  23. Xtifr said,

    November 7, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

    As someone who hears this fairly regularly, the variant "fitt'na", with a very distinct flap, seems to be quite common here in Northern California. While I won't claim that counts as evidence of anything, it does make me wonder just how well-researched the "fixing to" claim really is. Or if there aren't regional variations and convergent evolution, with some regions starting from "fixing to" and other regions starting with "fitting to", and both ending up at the same destination.

    Around here, "finna" seems common (again, not evidence, just personal impression), while "innit" is virtually non-existent.

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