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I was reading a discussion on another part of the internet and many of the people involved asserted that it was common to use the phrase "go to bed" for "cease all other activity and go to sleep" even if the speaker were already in bed.

For instance someone might be in bed, under the covers, reading a book. They would close the book and say "I'm going to bed now".

In fact some people expressed surprise at others' not knowing this use of the phrase.

Is this use of "go to bed" common in American, Canadian or some other variant of English? I believe most of the people familiar with it were north american speakers.

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    It would be helpful (and interesting) if you could post the relevant link. – Mari-Lou A Jan 21 '16 at 0:52
  • I find this hard to believe (AmE speaker). You need to give a link so we can see how they're saying it and justifying it. This could easily be just those people messing with each other. – Mitch Jan 21 '16 at 3:18
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This is common in American English, and is commonly heard on television (which implies it is not regional within the US). The phrase "go to bed" is often used where "go to sleep" would seem more appropriate.

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    I've never heard this use. You should give more info in your answer. I don't think this is common knowledge. – ab2 Jan 21 '16 at 3:06
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    I tend to agree with jimm101 here. I'm sure a lot of people use this expression somewhat interchangeably with "go to sleep". I did find this interesting link from a survey at the University of Wisconsin's website: dare.wisc.edu/survey-results/1965-1970/parts-body/x40 – Tim Ward Jan 21 '16 at 3:29
  • I'm not sure it's common. I (AmE) would be very confused if someone said that instead of "go to sleep" or, "I'm going to sleep now." Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite... You even see it in nursery rhymes once the kid is in bed. – anongoodnurse Jan 21 '16 at 4:46
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It is common in my experience. However, the area in which I grew up (northern Maine, US) has several idiomatic phrases that seem illogical to those outside the area (e.g., "Close the light = turn off the lights") because they have derivations from Quebecois French.

The distinction, in my mind, between "I am in bed" and "I am going to bed" is that the first is simply the physical location, and doesn't exclude other activity, be it reading, watching a video, or otherwise.

Sometimes the phrase is used to end an argument... "Fine, I'm going to bed!" Granted, they may remain awake for a while, fuming at you, but the lights will be off and you really shouldn't ask "are you awake?" at all. :)

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