I have seen both 'off-limits' and 'off limits' used in the same context. A thing that is off(-)limits is forbidden to be used or otherwise restricted to only some people's usage from my understanding.

I'm asking if I should use a hyphen or not.

  • 2
    As I show in my answer, dictionaries can help with this. A good dictionary will have example of the use of a phrase like "off-limits".
    – James K
    May 23 at 11:13

When you use it as a compound word you can hyphenate (though as you have discovered, hyphenation is optional)

When you use it as prepostion+noun then don't hyphenate, likewise if "off" is part of a phrasal verb.

The forbidden forest is off-limits (or off limits) to all students.

We have taken off limits on the number of people who can meet inside.

  • So when used as an adjective, it should be hyphenated (first example) and when it connects to a verb, it should not be (second example)? Redundant question, but just to be sure...
    – Ge To
    May 23 at 11:17
  • Yes. In the second case it is not a compound word "off-limits" but two separate words "taken off" and "limits" But look at the dictionary links for more examples. Hyphenation is optional (though increasingly common)
    – James K
    May 23 at 11:18
  • We only have the second case in my language so I got a bit confused.
    – Ge To
    May 23 at 11:20

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