I got some feedback regarding my English pronunciation and it contained this message:

I think you are doing a good job at least 90% of the time. Occasionally it is a little bit off, but it wouldn't be noticeable to me if we were just chatting.

I've also seen people asking about their pronunciation get answers like "it sounds a little off and so on. So, I'd like to know what the word "off" means in this kind of contexts.

  • Off is the difference between 90% and 100%, very good but a little off from perfect. And when milk is off, you don't put it in your coffee. – Yosef Baskin Oct 15 '20 at 2:18

As @YosefBaskin says in his comment "a bit off" means "slightly incorrect". One way to think of it is as being a short form of "slightly off target" or "a bit off target": "a bit" being an informal way of saying "a small amount".

In the feedback "off" indicates that there is a discrepancy between your pronunciation and the English pronunciation for which you are aiming but "a bit" indicates that the discrepancy is small.

"Off" can be used to mean any degree of error depending on the modifier used with it, for instance someone with quite poor pronunciation could be described as having pronunciation which was "a long way off". If someone else's pronunciation was really bad it could be described as being "miles off" or even "completely off" which again can be thought of as analogous to the accuracy of shooting at, or throwing something at, a target.

In terms of trying to hit a physical target "miles off target" is metaphorical (unless you are thinking of seriously inaccurate aerial bombing) but "completely off target" means that the shooter, thrower or bomb aimer has failed to hit the target at all. Think of a darts player whose dart has missed the board completely.

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