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Consider:

He fell off the ladder.

He fell from the ladder.

He fell away from the ladder.

He fell down the ladder.

Are all these sentences acceptable? If so, any differences in meaning?

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Consider a man cleaning the gutters of his house. I would probably use off and from if he fell straight to the ground (that is, if he slipped to the side and landed below where the ladder was touching the roof). I would probably use down if he lost his footing and fell along the rungs to where the bottom of the ladder touched the ground. I might use away if, when he slipped to the right, he inadvertently kicked the ladder over to the left (away suggests some distance between the person and the object fallen from). –  J.R. Mar 16 at 10:47
    
Nice recon!(●'◡'●) –  Zhanlong Zheng Mar 16 at 10:58

1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

All of those lines are "correct".

The line "He fell off the ladder" suggests that that man slipped. Because he slipped (or fell), he is no longer "on" the ladder.

To use "from" means pretty much the same thing. Because the man has fallen, he is no longer attached to the ladder.

"Away" implies that the fall caused a lateral difference in direction. When the police found him, he was on the floor, several feet away from the ladder.

"Down" the ladder implies that the fall was largely in one direction. Gravity worked once again. After the fall, he was below where he was before the fall.

Either way, he has fallen. He should look at himself, bend and straighten his joints and just feel that he is OK before he goes on.

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Thx, is it possible for the last example to mean "he fell to the root of the ladder", not directly below? And what do you mean by "lateral difference"? –  Zhanlong Zheng Mar 16 at 7:32
    
Good question. Here "lateral" just means on the horizontal axis, as opposed to on the longitudinal axis. Think latitude vs longitude. –  Jolenealaska Mar 16 at 7:38
    
It's a bit confusing, look at this :diffen.com/difference/Latitude_vs_Longitude –  Jolenealaska Mar 16 at 7:45
    
Here's another way to look at it. Anchorage and Honolulu are are at nearly the same longitude. To travel between the two cites, we only go North/South. –  Jolenealaska Mar 16 at 7:51
    
"Root?" No. There are other meanings to the word "root", but in this context there are no meanings that would make sense. A "root" is something that grows underground, or beneath the surface. A ladder doesn't have anything like that. The closest word might be "base". –  Jolenealaska Mar 16 at 8:25

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