English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I’m feeling something more energetic from ‘off’ than from ‘start’ because of its shortness and pronunciation, but I don’t know for sure what effect ‘be off’ has in story telling. Is it exactly same as ‘start’? Just look at the following citation.

”What’s your Quidditch team?” Ron asked.

”Er -- don’t know any,” Harry confessed.

”What!” Ron looked dumbfounded. “Oh, you wait, it’s the best game in the world –“ And he was off, explaining all about the four balls and the positions of the seven players, describing famous games he’d been to with his brothers and the broomstick he’d like to get if he had the money. (Harry Potter 1 [US Version]: p.107-108) [Bold font is mine]

I guess the author chose ‘off’ because Ron entered a new phase of his explanation, and that positively and more eagerly. I’m feeling (or maybe imagining) such energy agrees with off.

Anyway, here are my questions.

1. Which would you like to use in the following fill-in-the-blank question, ‘off’ or ‘start’? And why would you choose it?

“Oh, you wait, it’s the best game in the world –“ And he (???) , explaining …, describing ….

2. If ‘And he was off, doing, doing’ is a common expression, would you give me some examples? (I did tried google search, but I couldn’t do it due to my poor searching skill.)

I might be saying irrelevant things, but nothing venture nothing learn! I’d be glad if you could help me.

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I agree with you that "off" sounds more energetic. I think "and he was off" has a connotation of "he began on a passionate rant, leaving everyone else behind to watch". Kind of like how it's common at races to say "and they're off!", implying "just look at them go!".

share|improve this answer
Hi! Thanks. This question is important to me. I’m pretty happy to get your answer. – user7493 Aug 29 '11 at 4:18

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.