She was off to bed when the doorbell rang.

I have some confusion about the meaning of this sentence.

Does it mean either of the following:

1) She was on the way to her bed when the doorbell rang

2) She was in the bed (just got in her bed) when the doorbell rang

The problem for me is the past usage of ''Be off to somewhere''

  • "Off to bed" means on her way to go to sleep. By itself It doesn't imply she's going to get into someone else's bed -- so why do you think she's on the way to his bed?
    – Andrew
    May 1, 2018 at 23:22
  • 1
    it is my writing mistake.sorry.I meant ''her own bed'' She was on the way to her own bed
    – ullas84
    May 2, 2018 at 9:24

2 Answers 2


It means she was headed to her bed, but in the process of walking to her bed, the doorbell rang.

See this answer and this answer as well, as they're related to your question and may be of help.

While you specifically ask about the past tense version, the basic concept is the same as the present tense version. It's just that with the past tense version of "was off to", it means that a past event is being described. At some point in the past, she was going to her bed, but while she was going to her bed, the doorbell rang.


In this context, "off to bed" is ambiguous. The default would be on her way to her bed and, presumably, to sleep, but without details we don't know for sure.

It really doesn't matter though. The important detail is that the doorbell rang late in the evening, at bedtime, when most people wouldn't be expecting any callers. Everything else is superfluous, at least in the context of this sentence.

Another example, taken from the movie Home Alone:

The whole family was off to Paris for Christmas vacation when their mother realized she had left their youngest child Kevin back at home, alone.

If you've seen the movie, you'll know that the mother remembered her missing son when she was on the airplane -- but this one short description doesn't tell us any detail. The family could be anywhere on the trip. If it is important to know exactly what they were doing at the time, then the writer will add more detail in another sentence.

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