Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

OK, I'll bite.[edit]

What exactly is a preposition?

I would think that these usages of off were prepositional:

  • I drove off the edge of the road.
  • I took the book off the table.
  • The book slid off the table.

I would agree that many such usages are idiomatic (off the wall, off the charts off the top of my head), but only because such a basic prepositional concept is bound to be used metaphorically. The usage is productive; I can make up new instances:

  • I've fallen off the mental plateau I was on.
  • I've taken it off my {list, agenda, planner, disk . . .}

But on the other hand I can see how these might better be considered adverbial:

  • I saw a light off in the distance
  • Get off of me!
  • I'm off to work.

But off of seems problematic. On the one hand, it can be used pretty much interchangeably with off in the pure prepositional sense (at least in my dialect it can). But on the other hand, a strictly syntactic analysis would put it in the same class as off in the distance. And if you'll lend me a third hand, most people's first impulse would be to class off in the distance as prepositional anyway. In descriptive grammar, it's dodgy at least to "correct" most people's first impulse.

IMHO, this is probably one of the many cases where the traditional parts of speech serve more as first approximation than the full story. You're a braver man than I for making such a categorical statement. —This unsigned comment was added by Dmh (talkcontribs) at 21:36, 19 May 2004.

Try removing the verb from those examples. Some of them sound a bit funny. But some of them don't. It's a characteristic of English that prepositions and adverbial particles are usually quite blurred and ambiguous. Maybe I should've written something more like that. In fact I'd say most of those examples can be parsed either way.
But prepositions can stand with their noun and without any verb as in "A man from Australia", "A book on linguistics". Try making such a phrase with "off" but without a verb. Try with other prepositions and other adverbial particles. You'll see that you can categorize them by which can work without a verb. (Some all of the time, some some of the time).
Now try removing the noun from them. A preposition cannot stand grammatically without a noun. If it can then it is being used as an adverbial particle. But then English allows ellipsis in these case which again makes it murky.
A preposition is an undeclinable particle which comes before a noun and creates a prepositional phrase.
Off of is considered nonstandard but I should've included it in the derived section. That one is definitely adverbial.
Another experiment, by the way, is to try translating into other european languages - it's not easy. It's because English has diverged from them to become more analytic. It uses more particles and syntax-dependent structures then its relatives.
I would've put some examples in the prepositions sense but I couldn't think of any - some of yours are good though so please give it a crack. Oh and I checked with a real dictionary first and indeed most stuff was under adverb with just a little under preposition. I put my notes in because so many people I hear say things like "a phrasal verb is a verb plus a preposition" which is just plain wrong. It's with a particle which, often but not always, can also be used as a preposition. The particle "back" is a more clear-cut one which also gets labelled as a preposition in this sense and is much harder to translate into other languages.
Fun fun fun! — Hippietrail 01:56, 20 May 2004 (UTC)
Because of the confusion caused by reification of phrasal verbs, I think the discriminating test for prepositional senses is whether a prepositional phrase with the sense can serve as a predicate. That would suggest that we need to make sure that we have prepositional senses for the following collocations (following a form of "be" and 'off": "the mark", "the table", "the hook", "the coast", "the air", "the chart", "the ground", "the floor", "the street", "the wall", "the case", "the market", "off the rose", "the job", "the grid", "the map", "pitcher Tom Seaver", "the team", "the bed", "the books", "the board", "Monterrey Bay", "two decades", "a couple of quarters", "a quarter of a mile", "the sauce".
Almost everything that one can be "on", one can also be "off", so I would expect that one could easily generate candidate senses from "on". Also any of the uses with verbs (non-phrasal and even phrasal) can be accompanied by usages after a predicate: "Did he borrow off his brother?" "No, it was off Jerry." DCDuring TALK 20:54, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

Does the very British term "off-licence" really have an American spelling? If so, where on earth is it used? — Hippietrail 21:55, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Wherever Americans talk about it? Google has 51,000 hits for the phrase (though surely not all refer to this term). —Muke Tever 01:35, 21 May 2004 (UTC)

to be off[edit]

I just removed the following comment from the Preposition section,

<!-- Most uses thought of as prepositions are actually adverbial. True prepositional uses are mostly idiomatic. -->

and proceeded to add the following definition:

off, prep.
  1. away from, not on
    I've been off drugs for almost a month.
    She's on vacation, so she'll be off the net for another week.

I should have read this talk page first.

In light of the above discussion, I can see that this usage might better be classified as adverbial. In that case, we should add the transitive phrasal verb “be off”. What do you think?

Daniel Brockman 13:17, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

I just implemented this plan. — Daniel Brockman 14:05, 2 January 2006 (UTC)

Off - as used in parts lists etc.[edit]

can anyone offer some insight into how the word 'off' came to be used in parts lists, bills of quantity and the like?

for example:

3 off 20 amp fuses

I can guess at a couple of possible origins: perhaps when wood is being ordered you would want so many cut 'off'. Or perhaps it could derive from 'off the shelf'. I can see that it serves to remove ambiguity between the quantity required and any numeric specification, as in the fuse example, but why 'off' instead of 'number' or some other separator.

Good question. I've heard "one-off" many times and never gave it a thought. DCDuring TALK 21:36, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

It might originally have been 'of' as in '3 of 20 amp fuses', which at least makes sense.Impregnable (talk)

go off[edit]

"The alarm went off" I was looking for the definition to include this usage (odd, since the alarm actually turned on) but this use of the word is not mentioned.

You may not find this satisfactory, but the meaning is included at go off. It's not easy to come up with definitions for a word like "off" in all of its possible uses. Take a look at the various "phrasal verbs" that use "off" and you may see what I mean. DCDuring TALK 21:34, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Off and Offer[edit]

Can't milk go more off or offer? Can someone be offer with you this week than last week? —This comment was unsigned.

Possibly. But it's hard to find examples that we can use to show it. I've searched for "offer than" in fiction at Google Books and tried subtracting the more common phrases that aren't in this sense (eg, "better offer than"), but didn't have any luck. DCDuring TALK 23:00, 3 August 2010 (UTC)


Does anyone think verb sense 3 could be merged into sense 1? Hallpriest9 21:11, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

RFV-sense "suicide" failed[edit]

See this discussion. — Beobach 03:44, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Keep tidy.svg

The following information has failed Wiktionary's verification process.

Failure to be verified may either mean that this information is fabricated, or is merely beyond our resources to confirm. We have archived here the disputed information, the verification discussion, and any documentation gathered so far, pending further evidence.
Do not re-add this information to the article without also submitting proof that it meets Wiktionary's criteria for inclusion.


Rfv-sense: (intransitive) To kill oneself.

I've only heard this as "to off oneself", which is included in the first sense of off (kill). DCDuring TALK 15:21, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
In a film called Wristcutters, which is set in an afterlife reserved for suicides. --Rising Sun talk? contributions 01:46, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

RFV failed, sense removed. No citations added. I searched for a bit, but found nothing. —RuakhTALK 01:42, 7 November 2010 (UTC)