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There is a book titled Off to a Flying Start: Horsing Around the Language. What does off to mean?

I did some research on it and I feel it means going to do, but I still need your confirmation.

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There's a specialised meaning in horse racing; they're off is the traditional cry as a race starts, and the start itself is often called the off. –  TimLymington Sep 15 '12 at 16:56
We're off to see the wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz / We hear he is a whiz of a wiz, if ever a wiz there was –  nohat Sep 15 '12 at 19:12
Hi ho, Hi ho! It's off to work we go. –  kiamlaluno Sep 15 '12 at 22:06
@TimLymington - It's not just in horse racing, and the cry is usually, And they're OFF! ^_^ –  James K Sep 16 '12 at 3:43
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

See a few examples below.

  • I'm off to Canada next week.
  • I'm off to do my homework.

It can have several meanings. Most of the time, it means you're going to (not going to do). In the first sentence I'm off to Canada next week, you're going to Canada the following week. In the second, you're leaving where ever you are to proceed to do your homework.

It has more of a informal atmosphere a large percentage of the time and is used in conversational talk mostly. If you're having a talk with somebody and you want to end the conversation, you may say "Well, I'm off to take the kids to school" instead of "I'm going to go and take the kids to school."

Another usage of the phrase off to can be seen below.

  • I'm off to a good start, but I still need to focus a lot in order to win.
  • He's off to a good start in the race, but can he keep it up?

These sentences use off to as "beginning with" and, for example, the first sentence's off to can be replaced with "I'm beginning with a good start, but ..."

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Thanks Nile. Very informative. –  Yousui Sep 15 '12 at 16:57
May I suggest that in all these off means "leave" or "depart"? With an infinitive verb (to do something) or a place (to somewhere) the sense is "leaving" now (or in the future). With to a good (or bad) start, however, the sense is "have left" -- e.g., the starting gate, in the racing idiom, or launchpoint. –  StoneyB Sep 15 '12 at 17:32
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