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"From Burgin, where lanes of traffic in each direction are separated by a median, motorists will be able to make a right turn onto the bridge, and a right off the bridge."

Having a look in the above sentence what I found from Merriam Webster is right off = right away but things just differ in another sentence which is also closed to above one.

"To a Muggle, there's nothing better than the smell of a fresh Harry Potter book right off the shelf."

But, the second sentence does not make any sense applying the meaning as "right away". Can anyone clarify the whole thing?

  • In a context like The book fell right off the shelf, the (optional) word right effectively conveys the nuance of completely (same as with your bridge example). But in your Harry Potter context, (again, optional) right conveys more of the sense of immediately (probably by association / extension from right away, right now = at once, now immediately). – FumbleFingers May 9 at 15:17
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    You are looking at two entirely different uses of "right off" here. The first instance simply elides the word "turn" a second time - so it might read *...a right turn onto the bridge, and a right (turn) off the bridge". Taking a book "right off the shelf" has nothing to do with right and left. It uses the word "right" as an intensifier - in order to convey the audacity, or element of surprise, at the book being taken off the shelf. – WS2 May 9 at 15:18
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You're going between 3 (!) distinct expressions that look similar but are functioning differently.

First, in the relevant Merriam-Webster entry, here is the example sentence:

he had just gotten married when he was shipped right off to war

Right off is an adverb that describes when or how he was shipped to war: right away or immediately.

However, neither of the two sentences found "on the web" under the Merriam-Webster definition fit this usage. The text under these sentences explains that these are selected automatically and not by editors:

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'right off.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors.

They allow you to send feedback with a link under the disclaimer. I suggest you do so. In brief, here's what's going on with those "on the web" sentences.

So, second, in this example,

From Burgin, where lanes of traffic in each direction are separated by a median, motorists will be able to make a right turn onto the bridge, and a right off the bridge.

the presence of the article a leads one to read a right as a noun (Merriam-Webster "right," noun, def. 5e) indicating a right turn and off the bridge as a prepositional phrase indicating further information about the direction.

Third, in this sentence,

To a Muggle, there's nothing better than the smell of a fresh Harry Potter book right off the shelf.

right (Merriam Webster "right," adv., passim) is an adverb meaning something like "directly" or "immediately," and "off the shelf" denotes where the book came from. "Right off the shelf" is also a common expression (see Google Books) that connotes immediacy and easy access from a retail shelf.

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The word "right" has many meanings, and your examples touch on several of them (Dictionary).

As an adjective in the first sentence ("a right turn") it means, of course, "on the right-hand side."

As a noun, "right" can mean the right-hand part, side, or direction when paired with a definite article ("the right"), or a right turn with an indefinite article ("a right"). That is how it is used in the latter part of the first sentence ("a right off the bridge"). The clue here is the indefinite article "a" which indicates the use of a noun. This is not a use of the idiomatic phrase "right off," but rather a noun ("a right") followed by a prepositional phrase as a modifier ("off the bridge").

"Right" can also be used as an adverb to mean "completely" ("I fell right off my chair") or "directly" ("I came right home"). In the phrase "a book right off the shelf" it means directly, as a book taken directly off the shelf. In other words, the author is referring to the smell of the book immediately (directly) after taking it off the shelf.

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