Is it correct to say 'on it' or 'off it', where 'it' may refer to something like a light switch?

  • Not in British English. Other dialects may vary. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 20 '13 at 9:58
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    You might like our sister site English Language Learners – Matt E. Эллен Sep 20 '13 at 9:59
  • 'Kill the light(s)' is frequently used in familiar and informal registers. More on topic, 'kill the switch' can be heard in equally informal, but more tekkie situations. To 'off the switch' would mean to actually murder it, so no hombre sir. – Talia Ford Sep 20 '13 at 11:27
  • "On X" or "Off X" is used in Singlish, but not anywhere else that I am aware of. – Roaring Fish Sep 20 '13 at 13:20
  • "On X" or "Off X" is used in Malaysia too, I think. – auspicious99 Jul 22 '18 at 10:37

On is a preposition, adverb, and even a noun, but it is not a verb.

Off is a verb, but does not mean turn off or switch off. It can mean kill as in "I offed him with a knife to the eye". So you could say "I offed the lights", but that is a very unusual turn of phrase.

Off can also means leave, although I don't use it that way.

To do something to an object, as you wish to do by saying "on it" or "off it", requires a verb. There are phrasal verbs such as switch on/off, but they require the verb as well as the preposition.

Nobody says *"I onned the kettle" or *"I offed the microwave" when they are talking about switching them on or off.

  • Somebody does say "offed the microwave" etc - Singaporeans. – Roaring Fish Sep 20 '13 at 13:17

'On it' and 'off it' are commonly used in Singlish - Singapore English.

The words on and off are used as verbs in Singlish. Don’t correct someone when you hear them say “on the lights” or “off the lights.” It is a common expression. Who needs the word turn anyway?

CAN YOU OFF THE LIGHTS PLEASE? Can you off the lights please? Do you say this all the time?

Singaporeans always say things such as: ‘Have you ‘on’ the air-con?’ or ‘Remember to ‘off’ the fan when you leave.’


The Oxford English Dictionary has 3 uses of on as a verb.

One is marked U.S. regional obsolete ... 1845: he beat them off like every time, and onned again.

One is marked Now Sc. and Eng. regional (north.). ... I on with the pan and fried the fish.

And one is Manx English ... I'll borrow Crowe's raeper, to see can we on the job a bit.


"On it" is an idiomatic construction with an ellipsis of "I am". What it means is "I am on it", which is to say "My energy is focused on the matter."

"Off it" means "kill it". Both meanings are very colloquial.

Neither mean "to turn on" or "to turn off". Though I think it is a cool idea, and English is promiscuous enough to absorb your idea. Perhaps you should start a movement to make it happen. in fact I like the idea so much I'll help you. I am totally on it.

I don't doubt the stuffy grammarians won't like it, no doubt before the idea gets any legs they will off it.

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