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A native speaker says this statement in the movie "The_Art_of_Racing_in_the_Rain". When the girl is playing with the dog and his grandpa said this to her.

Make sure you wipe his paws off before he comes in.

My question is that the adverb "off" here seems strange.

I checked many dictionaries, and it seems that we can only say

Please wipe your feet on the mat.

Please wipe your feet with a cloth.

Please wipe your feet clean.

And we can use "wipe" with "off" if we want to talk about "removing dirt, liquid, etc", for example

Wipe the marks off

Wipe the marks off the wall

I’ll give you this example

Say, there are a couple of paws on a table. And you say “wipe the paws off the table”.

So, if you say “wipe the paws off” people may think that you want to remove the paws off something not “wipe the paws clean” which means to make the paws clean.

If "wipe the table off" meaning "clean the table" is common, then dictionaries should have at least 1 example about it. But I couldn't find any.

So, I think "wipe his paws off" should be "wipe his paws clean" or "wipe dirt off his paws".

Is it wrong to say "Make sure you wipe his paws off before he comes in."?

Note: Look at the Ngram for "wipe the table off". It seems that this kind of usage is quite new, people have been using it since 1940 but not before that.

And probably, it is idiomatic in American English, but not in British English.

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No, it is not wrong. It is understood to mean "Wipe all the stuff off of his paws before he comes in."

If the dog had his paws on the table, "Wipe his paws off the table" would be grammatically correct, but would likely be misunderstood to mean to wipe something off of his paws rather than to get the paws off the table. Much more likely is "Get his paws off the table" or something similar, if you just want his paws taken off of the table.

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  • Then, could you find at least 1 similar example in a dictionary for me? Put the link in your answer. – Tom Oct 5 '20 at 2:44
  • It seems to me that might be difficult to find. I'm basing my answer on a liberal arts education and decades of speaking US English as a native. I don't know how hard it would be to find examples for you, I'll leave that to someone else. – rcook Oct 5 '20 at 2:48
  • Look at the Ngram for "wipe the table off" "books.google.com/ngrams/…" It seems that this kind of usage is quite new, people have been using it since 1940 but not before that. – Tom Oct 5 '20 at 2:51
  • Off of......... ? – Michael Harvey Oct 5 '20 at 6:03

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