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After helping with the dishes, Eri swung her purse on her shoulder and said goodbye to her mother, promising she'll come back to see her soon. Keys in hand, her dad led Eri to the car, and then they drove (off) to the main street.

Do I have to add off in that last sentence? I've seen examples like that before. When is neccesary and when not?

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Drove to emphasises the destination. Drove off to emphasises the driving.

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    +1 But drive off also emphasizes the *leaving. – bib Sep 10 '13 at 12:25
  • I also feel the leaving is more important than the driving – mplungjan Sep 10 '13 at 12:30
  • Perhaps I should have said it emphasises the driving away. – Barrie England Sep 10 '13 at 12:32
  • As I thought I did in my answer... – mplungjan Sep 10 '13 at 12:36
  • drive off" can also suggest that trip is longer - since the destination is "*off" i.e. away – New Alexandria Sep 10 '13 at 13:24
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Drive off means to leave in a vehicle.

It makes more sense to drive off from entering a car.

You can drive to the main street from anywhere, but if you drive off, you are leaving somewhere from stand-still

I do not have a problem with the point of view - I can easily say

We left the house in a hurry and quickly drove off to the main street

where "drove off" in this sentence to me means: quickly entering a car and leaving the place in a hurry - so the fact that we are leaving is more important than where we went whereas

We left the house in a hurry and quickly drove to the main street

to me means: we left and drove to the main street fast, e.g. denoting that we drove at speed but not mentioning how fast we left the place, and the main street is more important than how fast we left

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After this extract, do you continue to write with the point of view of Eri (or anyone in the car), or someone in the house, like the mother?

If you're writing from the POV of someone in the car, then don't use off. If you're writing from the POV of someone watching the car, or someone who ISN'T in the car, you can use 'off'.

Writing only 'drove to' seems to indicate that whoever is experiencing this actually saw them reach the main street. On the other hand, 'drove off to' indicates that the person saw the car driving away, he knows they're headed to the main street, but he doesn't necessarily know if they reached there or not.

Using simply 'drove off' can also be used if the destination is not given, or it isn't sure. For example, "I got into the car and drove off."

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    I do not agree you cannot be in the car and drive off to somewhere. – mplungjan Sep 10 '13 at 12:05
  • Okay, I've updated the answer. I've not said that it's wrong to use 'off' if you're inside a vehicle. Although I feel using 'off' would better suit the POV of someone not in the car than simply 'drove to'. "They drove off to main street." As Barrie England says, it emphasises the driving, not the destination. – mikhailcazi Sep 10 '13 at 12:14

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