6

I hope he doesn’t think I’m off prostituting myself.

source - One Week Girlfriend

I looked up "be off", seemed no right meaning.

  • 3
    It was a good idea to look up "be off", but it's not correct in this case; I'm and off just happen to be next to each other. Off just means "away" in this context. – stangdon Jul 10 '18 at 13:12
  • @stangdon, ah, so easy, I pondered long time but failed. – Administrator Jul 10 '18 at 13:20
11

To be off doing something= Usually, you might be at a place such as home or work, if you are not there, you can be said to be off [doing something] by another person. It means not present at work, at home or at some other place where you are supposed to be or where you usually are.

It is constructed using: off + verb + ing + object [sometimes]. The idiom includes the gerund after off.

Where's John?

  • He's off playing tennis. [He has gone off to play tennis]
  • He's off seeing his family. [He has gone off to see his family].

It is a shortened form of: to go off and do something.

So, in your sentence, off prostituting myself means: away from the place the person is expected to be and engaged in prostitution. The verb form here is to prostitute oneself.

3

In your cited context, the (optional) preposition could be any of off, away, out (and doubtless several others). Most if not all of those optional prepositions have little or no effect on the meaning, apart from the general implication of the hypothetical prostitution happening "somewhere else" (not where "he" or the speaker is, or more metaphorically doing something which is far away from one's normal behaviour.

(transcribed from comment)

  • Every single one of those prepositions would change the meaning slightly. To be away, to be off doing something and to be out doing something are not the exact same thing semantically. I really think don't think a native speaker would say they are all the same. – Lambie Jul 10 '18 at 22:21
  • 1
    "Where is Steve?" "He's off getting his hair cut" vs "He's out getting his hair cut" are pretty much dead-on identical. – barbecue Jul 10 '18 at 23:43

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