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Could you tell me if there is any difference between throw someone and throw someone off in the sense of confusing? For example:

The interviewer's question threw me. I didn't know how to answer it.

The interviewer's question threw me off. I didn't know how to answer it.

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    No significant difference really. There's also "threw me for a loop." – TypeIA Feb 16 at 10:00
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Obviously in OP's exact context there's no scope for any difference in meaning depending on whether (optional) preposition off is included or not.

But in other contexts, to throw someone off is often "short for" ...off the scent - it means to mislead, deceive someone who's trying to find something out. Whereas the prepositionless version normally just mean to confuse, destabilise, disorient (someone who wasn't necessarily seeking anything anyway).


Note that with or without the preposition, this question concerns the metaphorical usage. But there's also the literal sense - again, with off being entirely optional...

The badly-trained horse threw the rider [off]

...where we can safely ignore the idea of the horse misleading the rider - so as with OP's example, there's only one possible interpretation (the rider was literally "bucked" right out of his saddle, and thrown to the ground).

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  1. The interviewer's question threw me. I didn't know how to answer it.

  2. The interviewer's question threw me off. I didn't know how to answer it.

The first sentence is ambiguous:

It threw me for a loop. (I was astonished.)

It threw me off. (I had not expected that question. It became difficult for me to continue my argument).

Both of the example sentences are idiomatic. The first sentence is ambiguous because it is elliptical.

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