I've read this sentence on a story:

The neon lights and the white sheen off the walls make his eyes look bluer.

Why is "off" used here? Why not "...sheen of the wall..." Would it also work?

1 Answer 1


In this context "off" refers to the reflection of light off the wall.

It's not quite correct, since walls should have a sheen and not reflect a sheen -- the sheen is a quality of the wall's surface. But this writer might not have thought it through, and anyway it's not that big of a deal.

Similar examples:

The children bounced the ball off the side of the building until the owner made them stop.

I could see her, walking by the cafe, in the reflection off the store window

  • Sheen can mean 'brightness'. For example And through the drifts the snowy clifts / Did send a dismal sheen. SamuelTaylor Coleridge, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:25
  • @Clare there "sheen" means "shine", as in "the snowy cliffs shone". I would say the sheen of the cliffs, but I wouldn't say the sheen off the cliffs. But as I said, it's not a serious distinction.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 16:34

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