Did the flash go off?

  1. Did the flash go off?
  2. Did the alarm clock go off?

The meaning of the verb phrase “go off” in the two sentences are the same?

Thank you!!!

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They are the same. “go off” here means “trigger” or “initiate”. For example a gun or a bomb could also “go off”


Additional clarification: yes, “go off” in this context means “activate” “turn on” “work/function.”

To “trigger” is to a cause something to go off, activate, work, etc.
To “initiate” means to begin to cause something to go off, activate, work, etc.


Thanks a lot!

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You’ve already seen the anwer from others but perhaps it will help to emphasize an idiomatic point (peculiar to English.):

Normally we use “off” in relations to a light, lamp, alarm, appliciance etc to mean “stopping the function”, e.g., extighishing the light (turn the light off – make it dark.)

However, in these instances of “initiating” the behavior of the item, the meaning is more like “to start off”, “to take off” or to begin especially for things that are automatically triggered.

Turn off the light. (make it dark.)
Turn off the flash (don’t use the flash for the next photo).
Did the flash go off? (Did it actually flash the light on the last photo?)

If the gun went off it made a loud noise and a bullet went somewhere. If the alarm clock went off it (probably) woke someone up, or at least annoyed someone.

Oddly, if I say, “did the light go off” it doesn’t mean that – it usually means did the bulb stop working or the power fail so that it became dark. This is through usage and because lights are typically triggered automatically though that is possible. Flashes being a common example that doesn’t apply to a lamp or ceiling light.

Maybe that is more than you wanted to know…

Thank you so much for the more information. It really helps!
So the light went off, it’s like when we say the milk went off (went bad), right?

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I would say ‘light went out’, not off, personally.

“go off” as used in your examples is a phrasal verb. Consult a phrasal verb reference for meanings and usages. Other responders here have given reasonable explanations.

However, it may not be a phrasal verb when used in a sentence like, “I’m waiting for the light to go off”. The meaning is certainly different, almost opposite of your examples. In this case “off” is an adjective describing the state of the light, and “go” is an action verb – the light goes to the state of being off.

“The streetlight outside my house goes off at dawn and goes on (or comes on) at dusk.” These examples may or may not be true phrasal verbs. They certainly have that feel, but treating it as I described above explains how this use of “go off” can mean the opposite of your examples.

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