How can I explain to people that the phrase off of is grammatically incorrect?

I‘ve heard this phrase used a lot, especially by Americans (though they aren't the only ones).

In my understanding, off of should usually be replaced by off, as in,

I took the book off the shelf

as opposed to

I took the book off of the shelf

Am I wrong? Or is there perhaps some simple way I can explain this to most people?

  • 3
    It's similar to the use of "write me" as opposed to "write to me". As a non-American English speaker "write me" means to write the word "me" whereas "write to me" means to write something for me.
    – soutarm
    Sep 2, 2010 at 2:34
  • 4
    @Francesca I'm about as elitist as they come, and I resent being told by narrow-minded rationalizers that I may not employ the language of Shakespeare and Shaw. Aug 19, 2012 at 1:07
  • 1
    I don't think, on the other hand, that I'm looking out the window is allowed in British English: the prepositional use of out is confined (traditionally) to other English-speaking areas. These anomalies are given prominence by the fact that we're nowadays communicating virtually instantaneously over the web. Sep 1, 2012 at 19:37
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth I have heard out the window many times, from AE and BE speakers.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 16, 2012 at 14:14
  • 2
    @Francesca What's wrong with pronouncing the 't' in often? This reminds me of a passage in Steven Pinker's book concerning a a Massachusetts controversy in which some legislators were upset that their kids were being taught by teachers with a foreign accent. A local parent responded with the observation that her kid's Bay State teacher taught the kid that 'orphan' was a homonym for 'often.'
    – Merk
    Oct 18, 2012 at 6:50

7 Answers 7


I don't know how you can explain to people in general that it's grammatically incorrect, but here is one idea: when you go to a James Brown tribute concert and the singer says "Get up offa that thing" what you could do is to trounce the security guards, climb on to the stage, pounce onto the singer, grab the microphone and say "In fact you should be saying not 'get up offa that thing' but 'get up off that thing' since 'offa' is grammatically incorrect." I'm sure everyone will thank you for your grammatical corrections.

Being serious for a moment though, it's very difficult to decide what is or is not "grammatically correct". E.g. in the UK we say "outside my house" but US people often say "outside of my house". How can you actually decide which of these two is grammatically correct? Unfortunately it's not possible since English grammar is not a science like physics but merely a description of what people actually do, and that has changed very significantly over the years. If I was teaching someone English I would definitely say "off" is correct and "off of" is wrong, but this kind of decision is based on intuition, based on the usages of educated native speakers.

  • 1
    Consider "off [of]" for trans-Atlantic communications. Nov 5, 2018 at 1:39

How can I explain to people that the phrase "off of" is grammatically incorrect?

You can't, because it's not.

There are thousands of examples of “off of” in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, not just in spoken English, but in magazines, newspapers, and academic journals as well. “Off of” is well-established as standard in American English. Plain “off” may be stylistically preferable in many cases, but it is simply not a rule of English grammar that if a word could be removed it must be removed. Some people seem to think that such a rule exists. It does not.

  • 23
    @a_m0d, in that case I guess the answer to your original question is to decry it as one of those barbarous Americanisms, and then you can ride the lift down from your flat and walk across the car park to your car so you can put your biscuits into the boot, and be careful not to hit your tyres on the kerb as you speed away on the wrong side of the road.
    – nohat
    Aug 13, 2010 at 22:46
  • 15
    Don't forget that barbarous proto-American, Shakespeare (Henry VI pt II, act 2 scene 1).
    – mgkrebbs
    Mar 19, 2011 at 22:54
  • 3
    there is no evidence from any poster here that it is an Americanism, and has been used my many Brits and non-Americans
    – Mousey
    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:59
  • I used to use this phrase. I looked it up and stopped, but as I continue to encounter it I keep checking again... Eh, I will just take both as fine, but avoid it myself. Johnson's General History (1724): "Two days afterwards they chased a sloop of 60 tons, and took her two leagues off of Cape Henry;"
    – Cloud
    Sep 14, 2021 at 1:48

The phrase "off of" has a long history, which, according to the OED, stretches back roughly 500 years. If you want to consider it to be "wrong", then it certainly has a lot of staying power. Here are their quotations using "off of":

?c1450 in G. Müller Aus mittelengl. Medizintexten (1929) 116 Take a sponfull of e licour..of of e fyir and sette it in good place tyl at it be ny colde, soo as ou mayst suffryn to holdyn er-in in hand.
a1616 SHAKESPEARE Henry VI, Pt. 2 (1623) II. i. 98 A fall off of [1594 Falling off on] a Tree.
1667 A. MARVELL Corr. in Wks. (1875) II. 224 The Lords and we cannot yet get off of the difficultyes risen betwixt us.
1678 J. BUNYAN Pilgrim's Progress 49 About a furlong off of the Porters Lodge.
1712 R. STEELE Spectator No. 306. 6, I could not keep my Eyes off of her.
1720 D. DEFOE Mem. Cavalier 281, I had perswaded him off of that.
1748 S. RICHARDSON Clarissa V. xiii. 132 Biting my lip, [was to indicate] Get off of that, as fast as possible.
1775 P. OLIVER in T. Hutchinson's Diary 7 Dec. I. 581 A Rebell Pirate..taken..off of Cape Ann.
a1805 in F. J. Child Eng. & Sc. Pop. Ballads (1894) V. IX. 106/2 Aff o the weather [read wether] he took the skin, An rowt his bonny lady in.
1824 J. WIGHT Mornings at Bow St. 21 Two young men..were charged by a watchman with having ‘bother'd him on his bate,’ and refused to ‘go along off of it when he tould 'em.’
1843 T. C. HALIBURTON Attaché 1st Ser. II. xii. 210 The groom has stole her oats, forgot to give her water, and let her make a supper sometimes off of her nasty, mouldy, filthy beddin'.
1868 HARTLEY Clock Alm. in Leeds Mercury Weekly Suppl. (1895) 5 Oct., He connot forshame To lift up his een off o' th' graand.
1875 P. BROOKS New Starts in Life viii. 129 If you could have filled his pockets with gold, and feasted his hunger off of silver dishes.
1884 ‘M. TWAIN’ Adventures Huckleberry Finn vi. 45 I'd borrow two or three dollars off of the judge for him.
1909 G. GREIG Mains's Wooin' 6 He's swallowed the dictionar', min, an's tryin' to get 'er aff o's stammack.
a1922 T. S. ELIOT Waste Land Drafts (1971) 5 The reputation the place gets, off of a few barflies.
1962 F. NORMAN Guntz i. 15, I got hold of this very very old typewriter off of a friend of mine.
1974 J. STUBBS Painted Face xxiii. 284 Get off of me, will you, sir?
1990 B. ROCHE Poor Beast in Rain II. i. 44, I was hangin' around here all the time, gettin' sweet nothin' off of you.

This may perhaps be more common in American English nowadays, but it certainly didn't originate there.

  • All but the most recent were prior to the creation of English dictionaries and grammar guides, comparing modern and historical English as if they have the same rules in not correct: clearly you can see the spelling of 'sponfull', 'perswaded', 'connot' is wrong and many examples are colloquial speech with abbreviated or colloquial words like hangin', min (mine), tryin'. Only T. S. Eliot is an example which is not speech and fairly recently (almost 100 years old).
    – Mousey
    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:38
  • this does not answer the question, it only points out the mistake is common
    – Mousey
    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:56
  • @Mousey English is not regulated. If it is in wide use for a long time then it potentially becomes correct.
    – Jessica B
    Sep 19, 2017 at 14:25

Off of does sound barbarous to the speaker of British received pronunciations but it's common (in every sene of the word) in regional dialects such as Cockney.

Perhaps grammar is a tribal mark of affiliation rather like the choice of vocabulary as in for example "toilet" vs "lavatory".


Or is there perhaps some simple way I can explain this to most people?

Yes, by explaining that the word of in that context, is unnecessary. It is superfluous. An unnecessary added extra. It is surplus to requirements. It adds nothing to the meaning of sentences.

  • of is a redundant word in the sentence - replacing of with off is correct, replacing off with of is clearly incorrect as well
    – Mousey
    Sep 10, 2015 at 12:01

The simple answer? It is an Americanism similar to saying "Don't forget to write me" (American) as opposed to "Don't forget to write to me" (everywhere else).

  • 6
    Is it really an Americanism? Or is "off" a Britishism? After all, American English, by way of number of speakers, is standard English. (I'm British, btw)
    – OneProton
    Aug 16, 2010 at 2:07
  • 4
    I can see where you're coming from but I'd have to say that whatever came first is the original and anything after is an -ism. (I'm Australian and speak the Queen's English ;))
    – soutarm
    Aug 17, 2010 at 2:16
  • 7
    Contemporary British English is not "the original". And whatever the original was, it is no longer contemporary. Both American and British English have been deviating from their common ancestor — in different directions but by the same degree. And in many respects, contemporary American English is in fact much closer to the original than contemporary British English.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 18, 2012 at 23:00
  • 4
    Contemporary British English is not "the original"! No, we Brits have pinched (sorry, loaned) from the Greeks, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans ... Perhaps we need to mug up on Beaker-speak to determine what we should actually label correct English. Sep 1, 2012 at 19:31
  • 5
    @soutarm Forsooth! What is this barbarous tongue that thou speakest and fain call by the name of "original English"?
    – Jay
    Oct 16, 2012 at 14:03

In my opinion, if you mean to say, "off of", then you should instead say, "from". For example, "Take the book off of the bookcase", when, "Take the book from the bookcase", is preferable. As I understand it, the expression "off of", is an Americanism, but the pseudo-antonym, "on of", is rarely (if not never), found in any language as far as I am aware.

  • 3
    Perhaps "on of" is never heard because there is a well established semi-antonym, onto.
    – mgkrebbs
    Mar 19, 2011 at 22:59
  • 3
    "Get off of that roof!" should not be changed into "Get from that roof!" Maybe "Get down from that roof!" Mar 20, 2011 at 12:56
  • 1
    Or perhaps it should be "off from". "Get off from that roof"
    – Steve Nay
    May 12, 2011 at 0:17
  • 'off' which indicates direction would need to be replaced with a direction word, like 'down', but Get off that roof! is clearly correct. Get of that roof is clearly incorrect, showing that off rather than of is the eseential and meaningful word in the sentence.
    – Mousey
    Sep 10, 2015 at 12:03

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