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What is the difference when you say "get off of something" and "get off something"?

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"Get of something" doesn't make sense--where have you seen it? –  simchona Jan 26 '13 at 18:39
Do you mean the difference between "off of" and "off"? In England, "off of" is supposedly ungrammatical ... always use "off". See this question, which is not a duplicate. In the U.S., there is a subtle difference between them (but you can always use "off" and be correct), which I hope somebody can explain. –  Peter Shor Jan 26 '13 at 18:46
It must have come up before. (Probably in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England, Peter.) –  Barrie England Jan 26 '13 at 18:48
@Barrie: My use of "England" was deliberate. Many of the supposedly ungrammatical things Americans do with language that the English complain about came from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, or parts of England not close to London. –  Peter Shor Jan 26 '13 at 18:51
@Peter Shor. Then forgive my presumption. As you must know, England is often used by those less well informed than you when Britain is meant. Anyway, I have provided a pro-AmEng answer. –  Barrie England Jan 26 '13 at 18:56

4 Answers 4

I can’t speak to overseas or Canadian usage, but think there is no hard-and-fast rule in US usage. There is a tendency—and it’s no more than that—to reserve the two-place prepositions off of, down from, out of, and those with to for directional contexts, much like into, while the one-place versions are preferred in locational contexts. I, at least, tend to speak of a motion being taken off of the table; if am subsequently asked about its status, I am more likely to say “Oh, it’s off the table now.” However, other two-place prepositions are more likely to be locational: down in, up on (not the same as upon!), over at.

The two-place prepositions sometimes have an intensive sense. I tell my son “Get off your butt”; when I come back twenty minutes later and he’s still watching TV, I say more sharply “Get offa your butt!” In heated dispute I am more likely to say “Get offa your damn high horse!” than just “Get off your high horse.” But I suspect these are occasioned by prosodic rather than semantic considerations.

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+1, and good to see you use speak to in that way. We had a question about it not so long ago. –  Barrie England Jan 26 '13 at 20:56
I think you're at least partly confusing double prepositions (ie preposition + preposition) (It was up on the top shelf) with complex (multi-word) prepositions (it came out of nowhere) (cf It was upon the top shelf). –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '13 at 22:52
@EdwinAshworth You're drawing a distinction I'm not familiar with. 'Complex prepositions' to me means constructions like by dint of, in front of, according to. –  StoneyB Jan 26 '13 at 23:10
@StoneyB: Complex prepositions are covered well at grammar.about.com/od/c/g/comprepterm.htm - they're from the mundane-looking (out of; next to = beside etc) to the more 'phrasey' (by dint of; in the process of; wrt). The criterion is a word group that functions like an ordinary one-word preposition. It is however possible to use two independent prepositions together: the mouse ran from under the settee (an elision of the mouse ran from its position under the settee). (Actually, terminology may be inconsistent, but the distinction remains.) –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 27 '13 at 0:07
@EdwinAshworth OK, that extends the sense a little farther. But I don't think any of the collocations I offer, except possibly down from in some contexts, can be taken as "two independent preopositions". For me the key is cadence, and all of these have a dying fall. –  StoneyB Jan 27 '13 at 0:15

I take it that this question is about the use of the complex preposition off of in general. ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ says that, in such cases,

. . . one can argue that the of is redundant. Yet in American English off of appears so often in print that it has idiomatic status, and is not edited out, as in British English . . . Webster’s English Usage (1989) expresses reservations about using it in the most formal prose, but there’s no doubt that off of is thoroughly established.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that when off is followed by of, it is

In later use only colloquial (nonstandard) and regional.

'Regional' can be taken as including the United States. The Rolling Stones, of course, sang 'Hey! You! Get off of my cloud'.

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The Rolling Stones seem to like Americanisms. They also sing "I'm just waiting on a friend". –  Peter Shor Jan 26 '13 at 20:05
@PeterShor The Stones of course were primarily inspired by American musical forms; but it's difficult to say in this case whether the lyrics follow the tune or the tune the lyrics. It would be vastly different without the "of". –  StoneyB Jan 26 '13 at 21:01
As would 'this ... world in which we live in'. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 29 '13 at 9:44

The difference between them, is that "off of" is used by Americans. For English and other British people, saying "off", would be sufficient. Saying "off of", is not really necessary. It is an example of, American English involving words that are superfluous. Surplus to requirements. Unnecessary, added extras.

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But you probably say "he went out of the door" while Americans would say "he went out the door". Why do you add a superfluous "of" with one preposition but not another? –  Peter Shor Jan 26 '13 at 20:01
I personally, don't use that. I would notice if anyone else did, because it would be very strange over here. –  Tristan Jan 27 '13 at 0:30
@Peter Shor: I've just found this at Wikipedia: ... in AmE, one jumps "out of a boat" by jumping "out the porthole," and it would be incorrect in standard AmE to "jump out the boat" or climb "out of the porthole." I hate to think what you have to use with portals, lancet, skylights and fire exits. I'll stick to BrE. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 29 '13 at 10:01
@Tristan: So you would say: 'He got off the train', 'He looked out the window', 'He jumped out the boat' and 'He went out the door'? That's more consistent than either the prevailing US or UK customary usages. Where is this unusual national variety (ie your 'over here') used, Tristan? –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 29 '13 at 10:03
@Edwin: it's perfectly correct in AmE to climb "out of the porthole" or go "out of the door". It's just that lots of people leave out the "of" for these (but you need it in "jump out of the boat"). –  Peter Shor Jan 29 '13 at 12:05

Get off of something = get enough of something.
Get off something = get that something off.

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Not even remotely. –  MT_Head Jan 26 '13 at 20:05

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