Do you know any phrasal verbs? Phrasal verbs are very useful when you’re learning a new language, but the meaning may not be immediately obvious (clear). A phrasal verb is a verb + a preposition or participle, which then changes the meaning of the original verb. Because the meaning of the original verb is changed, it can be tricky to figure out the meaning of phrasal verbs (for more on phrasal verbs, check out our blog with 22 useful phrasal verbs). One common phrasal verb you’ll hear is the phrasal verb to go off.

The phrasal verb to go off can have many different meanings, some of which change depending on whether you’re from the UK or the U.S. To go off may seem a little strange if you’ve never encountered it (seen it, come upon it) before, as (because) it looks like two opposite words put together. But to go off is an excellent phrasal verb to add to your repertoire (a group of skills). Learn all about the phrasal verb to go off, along with plenty of examples, here!

Phrasal Verb: to go off

Meaning #1: to explode

Do you like to watch fireworks during celebrations in your town? Or do you like watching action movies with lots of explosions? If you do, then the phrasal verb to go off will be useful for you!

To go off can be used to describe something, such as a firework or a bomb, exploding. If you watch action movies or thrillers, you may hear the characters (fictional people in a movie, book, play, etc.) talking about something about to go off, and if that has confused you in the past, now you know that they’re worried about something about to explode.

For example:

  • Some of the fireworks at the Fourth of July celebration didn’t go off, but it was still a great fireworks display!
  • The police were afraid that the bomb would go off, so they evacuated (made everyone leave) the building so that no one would get hurt.

Meaning #2: to not work

It’s always frustrating (annoying) when electrical items don’t work. If you have an electrical item, such as a light, phone, or computer that stops working, you can use the phrasal verb to go off to describe what has happened. When something goes off, it shuts down or turns off, sometimes suddenly. If an electrical appliance goes off, it happens by accident, and you didn’t turn it off on purpose.

For example:

  • During the thunderstorm, the power in our building suddenly went off (past tense!), and then came back on again.
  • Our internet went off on Sunday and hasn’t been back on since. I have no idea how to fix it!

Meaning #3: to leave a place

This is one meaning of to go off that you’re more likely to hear in the U.K. than you are in the U.S. However, if you said this to an American, they would still be able to figure out what you meant. The phrasal verb to go off can also be used to mean to leave a place or go somewhere, especially for a particular purpose.

For example:

  • She’s gone off to Italy for her vacation, but she’ll be back in a few weeks.
  • He just went off to the bakery to get something for lunch, but he should be back in a few minutes.

Meaning #4: to start making a noise

Do you set an alarm to wake up for work every day? Or do you like to bake, and set a timer to check how long something has been in the oven? Then you’ve heard an alarm go off! This multifaceted (having many sides) phrasal verb can be used to talk about something that starts making a noise. This is a great term (word or phrase) to use to talk about alarms or timers. If you set an alarm to wake up for work, you can potentially (possibly, in theory) use this phrasal verb every day and talk about your alarm!

For example:

  • I woke up before my alarm on Tuesday, so I was able to turn it off before it went off.
  • Can you please wait to vacuum for about 20 minutes? I set a timer to take the cake out of the oven, and I want to hear it when it goes off.

Meaning #5: to suddenly become angry

Sometimes you can’t keep your emotions in check (steady, in control) and you become very angry and start yelling. If this happens, you go off. Hopefully this doesn’t happen very often, or you don’t know someone who goes off a lot, but just in case, you can now describe the situation well!

For example:

  • He was a very angry person. You never knew when he would go off and start screaming at you.
  • After he said that to me, I just couldn’t stay calm anymore. I went off on him and started yelling. I feel really bad though, and want to apologize to him when I see him later.

Have you used the phrasal verb to go off before? Do you know any of its other meanings? Make sure to share them with us in the comments below!

Did you like this blog? Share it with others! Let us know what YOU think!

Check out these other popular blogs: Internet Vocabulary You Should KnowBar Vocabulary in English5 Podcasts to Listen to If You Want to Improve Your English, or this Pregnancy Vocabulary in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, and yoga instructor who loves to watch fireworks go off on the Fourth of July.

Looking for more phrases, ways to use English every day, or get the conversation started? Sign up for our newsletter or check out the website!