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I am wondering if "Off" and "From" can be used interchangeably?

Such as:

  1. I am taking this note off the document.
  2. I am taking this note from the document.
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3 Answers 3

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No, they cannot be used interchangeably.

"Off" is used to denote the displacement of something physically. When you say you will take the note "off" the document, people immediately visualize a note on a separate sheet of paper lying on top of another document, and you are picking up that separate sheet of paper from off the top of the document.

"From" is used to denote the displacement of something as well, but this time, the things are together. When you say, "I'm going to take this note from the document", people immediately visualize that the note was originally part of the document, that is, it was printed in the document, and now you are going to change the document, so that the note is no longer part of the original document.

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In this case I would say no. When someone says they are taking "from" something, I usually wait to hear where it will go "to". So if you were moving the note, you could say "I am taking this note from section 2 and moving it to section 4a", and if you wanted to remove it completely you could say "I am taking this note off of the document".

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Based on just your examples, and no other context:

  1. off.2 gives me the impression that the note was removed from the document.
  2. from gives me the impression that the document was the source of the note (as opposed to destination). The aspect of removal is unclear: if it was a post-it note, it was removal. If it is a note that you are quoting, it isn't removal.

These two words may also prime my expectations on the discourse that follows. I speculate on some possibilities (I am not a psycholinguist):

  1. I expect the note to be irrelevant. Someone wanted the note removed. I expect the next sentence to be about the document. I'd be measurably surprised if the next sentence was about the note.
  2. I expect the next sentence to be about the note. I'd be measurably surprised if the next sentence was about the document.
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