This question is very closely linked to this english.SE question, which discusses the usage of "sleep" as a verb meaning "go to sleep" and inspired by this ell.SE question, in which the accepted answer clearly does not recognize the existence of this interpretation.

The usage of the word "sleep" as a verb signifying "go to sleep" is clearly not commonplace (and is not noted in the online M-W nor the American Heritage dictionaries), but is prevalent in certain regions, I pose the following two questions:

  1. If this is a familiar usage of "sleep", in what region do you find this usage of "sleep" common?, and
  2. For those familiar with this manner of grammatical construct, or other similarly amorphous words, what do you imagine might have been its origin? (The linked english.SE question notes that this is a construct used in the Northeast U.S. and Australia; being from the Northeast myself, I can also confirm that it is used there).

As noted in the linked english.SE question, the usage of "sleep" as "go to sleep" in a phrase such as

I usually sleep around midnight.

instead of the more technically accurate

I usually go to sleep around midnight.

seems to be rather regional and the possible result of "contamination from another language". I know of at least one construction in a foreign language that resembles this, namely from Spanish:

Dormí a las ocho.

translates to

I went to sleep at eight.

But the answers in that question, as well as the ell.SE question that I linked, are not particularly illustrative of what I'm asking. I'm very curious as to how common a usage this is and how it might have arisen.

  • Since you don't say what region this supposed difference lies in, the theory of contamination from Spanish can't be answered.
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 23:39
  • Thanks for the suggestion; I've added details about regions where this construct has been observed to my post (Northeast U.S. and Australia), although I was also hoping to get answers about other regions where this is used.
    – Pockets
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 23:43
  • 1
    Those regions seem to rule against Spanish as a source for this, since contact is light in the NE US and minimal in Australia, opposed to, say, the SW US.
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 23:45
  • Indeed; I suggested Spanish as it's the only other language I'm familiar with and its grammatical construct happens to be very similar to that which I'm asking about, and because I have no idea if it's used in the SW US. Is this a construct that you've seen before (and if so, where)?
    – Pockets
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 23:50

4 Answers 4


Having lived in the Dallas, TX area for 12 years and growing up in the Michigan/Ohio area, I have never heard sleep used in place of go to sleep, or go to bed. The Spanish usage would most likely apply to French or any other Romance language, though a bit antiquated to a native English speaker. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the German "schlafe ich am acht" (I sleep at eight) would be correct as well. This would more likely explain usage in the Northeast, and French would explain anywhere along the Canadian border, but especially closer to eastern Canada. Perhaps, non-native speakers would use this form in the same way Spanish speakers might say "I would like one drink" as opposed to "a drink", because many languages do not differentiate between "one" and "a".


I have heard this usage before, but it was somewhat of a joke between friends (this is not to say that it was an in-joke, just that the usage was humorous).

The person was very tired and they said "I must sleep now". It seemed like a strange way to phrase it, but everyone understood that there was no stopping the sleep. As opposed to "I have to go to sleep now", where it might be understood that you are not sleepy, but your schedule dictates that you should start sleeping soon. The usage was definitely contextual.


I've not heard the phrase "I sleep at zzz", which makes me suspect it is not a common or native expression of the SE US dialect. I've lived in FL and GA for 30+ years.


Sleep and go to sleep are different tenses of the same verb. Sayings like "I sleep in green pajamas" or "I sleep with the TV on" are commonplace. If you want to indicate the act of sleeping, you have to use a future tense -- unless of course you are talking in your sleep.

  • Considering that your first statement is false, the rest is difficult at best to judge.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 22:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.