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When my washing machine finishes washing, it makes "beep-beep-beep" sound to let me know that it has finished.

I found this example in the Oxford Dictionary

The microwave beeps to let you know when it has finished.

I can just imitate that sentence by saying

The washing machine beeps to let me know when it has finished.

My question is that

Can we make it shorter by saying "The washing machine signaled off"?

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  • [correction: It makes a beep beep beep sound]. No, signaled off is completely wrong here.
    – Lambie
    Oct 8, 2023 at 16:13
  • You could say "The washing machine announced that it was finished" Oct 8, 2023 at 18:14
  • "The washing machine signaled that it was off" would be better.
    – BigMistake
    Oct 8, 2023 at 20:47
  • The intended audience and writing style affect the answer to this question. If you're writing an instruction manual for washing machines, you'll want to be somewhat formal and explicit. "The washing machine will produce a beep/buzz/chime when the wash cycle is complete." If you're giving informal instructions to a houseguest, you would probably say "The washing machine beeps/buzzes/chimes when it's done." If you're writing something more poetic about laundry, you might say "The piteous cry of the washing machine calls me to abandon my word search puzzle."
    – barbecue
    Oct 8, 2023 at 21:43
  • Have you tried searching dictionaries or Ngrams for "signal off"? What did you find? Why do you think that might be good English? Currently, this reads like a request for proof-reading.
    – gotube
    Oct 9, 2023 at 4:58

6 Answers 6

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No, that's not idiomatic.

(Sorry, I can't think of any way to explain "why" or "how" to answer this question. You have already written the right way to express this)

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One of the major problems with the suggestion "The washing machine signaled off" is ambiguity: is it the washing machine that's now "off", in which case "signaled" doesn't fit ("turned off" or "switched itself off" fits better), or is it the signal that's now "off"? If we want to keep the "The washing machine signaled" phrase, we have to say something that clearly is a signal, unambiguously, e.g. "the end of its cycle." However even that feels a bit cumbersome. The Oxford example comes closest to what an English speaker would say, in my opinion. Myself, I'd most likely say "The washing machine beeped and turned off," or something similar.

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  • …or the "off" might not indicate a state of the machine (i.e. the opposite of "on"), but simply be a phrasal verb complement like in "go off", "set off", "start off" etc., in which case the sentence could be interpreted as "the machine emitted a signal." That might even be the interpretation that the OP intended. But it's still not idiomatic English either way. Oct 8, 2023 at 20:23
  • "beeped and turned off" might indicate that the machine had a fault.
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 9, 2023 at 3:37
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I see nothing whatever wrong with saying The washing machine just signalled off, though ...signalled the end of its cycle, may be better.

I have never heard anyone use "signal" with an appliance, but I see nothing wrong with doing so. It provides clarity as to meaning, and I can't think of any other obvious way of saying it, unless it is something like The washing machine just made an off sound - but to my mind that's a bit clunky.

Other answers suggest things like "the machine emits a noise when it's finished" as alternatives - but that's a different thing. That is a description as to what happens. What I believe the OP is looking for is a way of communicating to someone that the the all-important beep has been heard.

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"Signalled off" is understandable, but it is ambiguous and unnatural.

Formally, you would say

The washing machine beeped to indicate that it had finished
The washing machine indicated that it had finished
The washing machine signalled that it had finished

Informally, you would say

The washing machine beeped to say that it had finished.

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I can just imitate that sentence by saying

The washing machine beeps to let me know when it has finished.

It doesn't let you know, it lets everyone know. So, shorter would be:

The washing machine beeps when it has finished.


Can we make it shorter by saying "The washing machine signaled off"?

I don't think that is as clear. There is nothing in that sentence about beeping. It might signal by flashing a light, sending a message to your smartphone, or making an announcement.

If anyone said to me "The washing machine signaled off" I would say "it did what?"

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The example from the Oxford Dictionary is the most natural sounding but you could paraphrase it as:

The appliance emits a noise when it's finished [heating/cooking/washing/drying].
OR
When it's finished, the appliance makes a beeping sound

EDIT: In light of recent comments, I have amended the folowing:

The OP's solution “The washing machine signalled off" fails because we don't normally say an appliance signals or sends an auditory signal. Devices, machines, electronic appliances etc. make a sound or a "beeping sound/noise" when a cycle or any prolonged process has finished.

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  • I don't get it, before the washing machine finishes, it makes a beep sound. Why do people need to turn off the washing machine? I have never seen such a washing machine like that
    – Tom
    Oct 8, 2023 at 10:07
  • My washing machine beeps to signal it's finished, which is also reflected in the front panel display. If you ignore it for 15 minutes, it will eventually completely power down, fully 'off'. My dishwasher does the same, so does my coffee machine, though on a much longer timer. The days of appliances staying on until you physically switch them off are long gone. My microwave just beeps, turns off the timer & light, then goes back to the clock, it doesn't care what you do after that. None of these could be considered to 'signal off' - that just doesn't work idiomatically. Oct 8, 2023 at 10:45
  • 2
    If I'm reading a book, at the PC, or doing anything other than carefully watching the washing machine, a sound signal of some kind (a 'beep') is useful because it tells me that I may now remove the rinsed washing and hang it on the line in the back garden. In fact there's a short wait until the door safety catch releases and I can open it (I hear a click). It's a Zanussi about 10 years old. To actually turn it 'off' I have to rotate a knob to the top ('OFF') position. Oct 8, 2023 at 11:40
  • The last generation of the appliances in the house pretty much all had dedicated hardware on/off switches. The newer ones all want to be 'eco'. Same with the TV & cable box. Don't interact for long enough, they go into standby, [as they don't really have a 'true' off.] Same I suppose for the coffee machine, because I can wake it over wifi, like the central heating, summer cooling fans, hifi, computers… it's becoming an IoT world. Oct 8, 2023 at 13:35
  • I have never heard of a washing machine that doesn't turn off at the end of a wash cycle. However, the dishwasher's panel light remain on till I hit the off button.
    – Lambie
    Oct 8, 2023 at 16:15

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