According to Cambridge Dictionary, I found that "stop off", "stop in", "stop by" all mean "stop to visit someone/ somewhere for a short time while you are going to somewhere else" in general. I feel confused. Can you tell me what are the differences between these phrases? Thanks in advance.

  • I'd only use 'stop in at ...' or 'stop in to see ...' with 'stop in'. Also, 'stop off at (Bristol, say)'. 'Stop by' can be used intransitively or (with a location, say 'the office') transitively. You need to show examples from CD. Oct 1, 2021 at 14:55

3 Answers 3


They may be somewhat the same but beyond any regional differences, they can also mean something different.

  • If you are going on a trip somewhere, you can:
  • stop off at someone's house or office or shop or whatever and visit them.

It does not matter if that is for ten minutes or ten days. "stop off" [the route you are taking to a place.]

  • If you are driving or cycling or even walking to a place where you live, you can:
  • stop by someone's house, workplace, shop or whatever. Generally speaking, if you are going a long distance, you stop off at: They flew to Sydney from London but stopped off in Dubai. In these cases, you cannot "stop by". And yes, stopping by for a chat (for example) does imply a short time.
  • If you are going somewhere locally (as with stop by), you can:
  • stop in (on someone or to see someone or at a place). The preposition "in" implies a place but it does not need to be named necessarily. It is definitely local also.

  • On my way to work, I stopped in to see him at his pet store.

Now, the hard part, I have tried to provide the prepositions or nouns that one might use with these expressions as this can be the source of confusion to non-English speakers. But here's the sticky wicket, the idea of going to see someone in English can be very complicated indeed as it is associated with a number of verbs and prepositions. Some other ones are:

  • come/go over [to a place. usual AmE usage]
  • stop round [a place, mostly British]
  • come round/go round [mostly but not exclusively British]
  • pop over/round/in/and even down or up [most definitely British and ever so charming]. "Ah, he's in the attic office. I'll just pop up and see him." Also, as an understated way of saying something: ""We'll just pop over to Auckland [from Sydney] on our way to Saigon".

Please note: These are the most usual as I think of them right now. There are surely many others that just have not come to mind.

[It thought this question was fine for ELU. I guess that thought was not shared by the honchos.]


I think the real difference here is mostly regional. They're all equivalent phrases, but they are preferred differently in different parts of the UK (I don't know if/how these are used in the US).

I would say 'stop by'. I am from the Midlands. I wouldn't use the others, but I have friends who do, and it never confuses or sounds strange at all.


In the US (northeast), I believe “stop off” and “stop by” are more common than “stop in”. All used (as described) to mean stopping somewhere while en route to a primary destination. It could be just me, but I feel as if “stop by” connotes a briefer visit.

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