1

This is a sentence meaning question. What is the difference between:

Where did they go?

Vs.

Where could have they gone off to?

Let's say a mother is looking for her children in a park, and she said these two sentences.

3

Where did they go?

The expected response is a specific location where the children went. It is assumed that the children had a destination which was not known to the speaker.

Where could have they gone off to?

or even better:

Where could they have gone off to?

The speaker already searched (some / several) places where the children could be. However, they were not yet found, and other alternatives are needed, in order to conduct more search. In a way, it is a request for brainstorming.

While the first question only seeks some clarification / information, the second one also implies some level of bewilderment.

Thank you @Rompey: Also, I'd add that the meaning of "go off to" suggests that the kids left some particular place known to the mother and went to where she can't guess right off the top of her head.

  • 1
    I'd suggest checking the placement of the pronoun in the second question) – VictorB Feb 19 at 8:56
  • Yeah, good one. Tnx. – virolino Feb 19 at 8:57
  • 1
    Also, I'd add that the meaning of "go off to" suggests that the kids left some particular place known to the mother and went to where she can't guess right off the top of her head. – VictorB Feb 19 at 9:12

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