drift into sleep / drift off to sleep

pjnkpoog

New Member
Vietnamese
Why does every body say: "to drift off to sleep" rather than "to drift into sleep"?
I'm very confused because in Oxford dictionary, I just see "to drift in/into sth" and can't find "to drift off to V" structure anywhere. So, why is there "to drift off to V" structure? And is saying "to drift into sleep" correct?

Thanks.

Huong (I'm from Vietnam :))
 
  • Wil_Estel

    Senior Member
    The reason people say "to drift off to sleep" is probably because "to drift off" already means "to fall asleep." I suspect that this is Americanism since I have never heard any Englishman that I know use the expression.

    I will not go insofar as to say that "to drift into sleep" is incorrect, but I don't think it makes sense at all.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    They both sound fine to me. As Wil mentioned, "drift off" is an idiom that means "fall asleep" (or sometimes "cease paying attention"), but you can certainly drift into sleep as well. "To drift" means here "to be carried slowly." It's a bit metaphorical, but only a bit.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I can't be absolutely sure because I spent 10 years in the USA and have decades of less direct contacts with US English, but "drifting off (to sleep)" doesn't sound American to me. It might not make much sense especially to the learner, but phrasal verbs rarely do. The 'preposition' used in them (in this case 'off') may only have a remote or notional or abstract connection to the more familiar literal use. "Take your feet off the table"' or ' She took her clothes off', is what I call literal. So is 'Take your make-up off". These are transitive athough the object might only be implied.
    'Off', is used as what's known as a 'particle', in another sleep- related phrase, 'nodding off'. "Nod off" what? We could ask the same about "He ran off as fast as he could go". In such phrases, off has a strong sense of away (from) ... .
    Then we get to a phrasal verb such as 'to take somebody off', or 'to do a take-off of somebody', meaning to imitate them. I agree that here, ' to take off' has no 'sense' at all.

    Hermione
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I can't be absolutely sure because I spent 10 years in the USA and have decades of less direct contacts with US English, but "drifting off (to sleep)" doesn't sound American to me.
    It doesn't sound American to me either.

    I'm afraid Wil is wrong in considering it an Americanism:(.

    Oh - and by the way - I agree with Kate:).
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    I very much doubt that it's an Americanism, but it's certainly common in the U.S. Despite certain differences, AmE and BE speakers really do generally speak more or less the same language. ;)
     
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