Off of is an idiom, meaning the words have a different meaning together than what they convey. It is a “wordy” term that often confuses people, and it is argued that of isn’t needed at all, and off will suffice.
However, this term has been used for a few hundred years and is here to stay, and learning how it is used can help you better understand where it can be placed in your speech and writing.
What Does Off Of Mean, and How Do You Use It?
Off is a preposition, a word that governs a noun or pronoun to express a relation to another word or element. It means to be away from or at a distance from a place in question, removed, or separated.
Of is also a preposition used to express a relationship between a part and a whole.
Off of is an idiomatic phrase to mean “from something” and indicates that information or material was taken from another source.
Off of can almost always be shortened to just off. The unnecessary use of the word of is common in informal speech and writing, though, and using it is never a serious usage error. But writers who value concision can avoid it.
- She pulled the research off of the internet and used it to create her presentation.
- She pulled the cat off of the towel, where he was stuck, like velcro.
- The scores were taken off of the official scorecard.
Origins of Off Of
Whether by accident or on purpose, the idiom has been in use for centuries, likely due to its etymology.
Off became an emphatic 11th-century form of the Old English of, with its prepositional meaning “away from” not used until the 17th century. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Time Traveler tool, off of was first used in 1567, although it is difficult to pinpoint where exactly the phrase made its debut.
It’s likely it was originally commonly heard in speech, similar to how we use it today. In modern use, you are more likely to hear it or see it published in informal writing accounts. It also is much more common in American English than anywhere else.
Off of or Off?
Many people will argue that two prepositions should never be placed side by side, but there are quite a few exceptions to this rule as it is. Grammarians will argue that you should just use off instead of off of, but occasionally, off is needed to add clarity to the sentence.
Both terms are correct. Although the singular use of off is considered more formal and correct overall, off of is acceptable in speech and informal scenarios.
Off of vs. From: Which Is the Better Choice?
If off of means from, why can’t you just use from in its place? Although this sounds like a perfect solution to the off of debate, it doesn’t always sound right in practice.
In many cases, off of and from can be used interchangeably.
- I printed the information off of the computer
- I printed the information from the computer.
But, off of occasionally conveys a different meaning than just using from. For example, in this sentence, the ball bounced back off the wall:
- The tennis ball bounced off of the wall.
But if you replace off of with from, the sentence doesn’t convey the same meaning:
- The tennis ball bounced from the wall.
It sounds like the wall bounced the ball back where it came from.
Off of is an idiomatic phrase made up of two prepositions. It means something came from something else and can often be replaced with the word from or simply off, although not always. It is also much more likely to be used in speech and informal writing rather than in a formal context.