If a sound goes off, does it mean the sound starts or the sound starts and lasts for some time?

In other words, can I say "an alarm was going off all night"?

1 Answer 1


I agree with the Cambridge Dictionary, which says that it's when a sound starts.

An alarm was going off all night

You could say this if the alarm started making a noise several times during the night, but you can't say it if the alarm rang continuously all night.

  • 3
    I would be fairly comfortable with saying an alarm was going off all night, meaning e.g. it started sounding at some time in the night, and continued sounding without pause until morning. Mar 13, 2022 at 12:33
  • "An alarm went off all night" sounds more natural to me as a stand-alone sentence, but I don't have a serious problem with "An alarm was going off all night". Normally you'd use "was going off" in an expression like "When I came home an alarm was going off" where coming home takes a short time and the alarm is on for a longer time.
    – Stuart F
    May 15, 2023 at 15:23

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