Off and Of (Grammar Lesson)

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
What is the difference between "off" and "of"?

"Off" is the opposite of "on." It is pronounced "OFF."

"Of" is most commonly used to show possession (e.g., an uncle of Mr. Jones) or to show what something is made of (e.g., a wall of ice). It is pronounced "OV."
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What Is the Difference between "Off" and "Of"?

Writers are sometimes confused by the words "of" and "off." As this confusion rarely occurs in speech, it can often be rectified simply by remembering how the words are pronounced.
  • Off is pronounced OFF
  • Of is pronounced OV

Click on the Two Correct Sentences
(Interactive Game)

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More about "Of" and "Off"

The words "of" and "off" are both prepositions. (Note: Here at Grammar Monster, we have found that explaining the grammatical functions of these words is not usually helpful because anyone who can understand the explanation rarely confuses the words.)

Using Of

Here are the most common uses of the word "of." The word "of" is used:
  • To show possession
    • The hand of God
    • A part of me
  • To state what something is made of
    • A splinter of wood
    • A heart of gold
  • To show what something contains
    • A cup of coffee
    • A plate of figs
  • To show a point of reckoning
    • North of the wall
    • West of New York

Using Off

The word "off" is the opposite of the word "on." For example:
  • Turn it on. Turn it off.
  • Put it on the table. Take it off the table.
The word "off" is commonly seen as part of a phrasal verb, which is a single verb made up of more than one word. A phrasal verb has a main verb and an accompanying word (like "off"). The accompanying word can be either a preposition or a particle (a type of adverb).

When the accompanying word introduces a prepositional phrase, it is classified as a preposition. When it does not, it is a particle. For example (phrasal verbs shaded):
  • Wipe that paint off the wall.
  • (In this example, the prepositional phrase is "off the wall." The word "off" is a preposition.)
  • Stop showing off.
  • (Here, "off" is a particle.)

Don't Write "Get Off Of"

With verbs like "to get off," "to live off," and "to go off," there is no need to add "of." With these verbs (called phrasal verbs), the "off" acts as a preposition. There is no need to add your own preposition (i.e., don't write "off of"). For example:
  • Get off the table.
  • Get off of the table.

  • She lived off the land.
  • She lived off of the land.

  • She is going off you.
  • She is going off of you.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? Ms., Miss, or Mrs? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What is a preposition? What is a prepositional phrase? What is a phrasal verb? List of easily confused words