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Which one is correct? Or are they both correct?

1.) John pulled a scam on Jane.

2.) John pulled off a scam on Jane.

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  • 1) Both uses are a bit informal, so this isn't a matter of strict correctness. 2) I'm not sure that #2 would not be said, but these are two different usages of "pull," and #2 would not be as common. See this definition of "pull off"; it can apply to success in any kind of attempt. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 20:57
  • Colloquially "to pull [something] off," usually refers to doing something difficult. For example, "He hadn't studied, but pulled off an A on the test." It might also be used for a criminal enterprise, such as, "pulled off a ban robbery," so it might be used in #2, but is less likjely. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 21:24
  • Contrary to other commentators I would have said 2 was preferable. It does imply the scam worked though which perhaps 1 may not.
    – mdewey
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 14:46

1 Answer 1

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Both are acceptable in this context, but they have different meanings.

To "pull something on someone" means to do something deceptive to someone like, a scam, a prank or a practical joke.

To "pull something off" means to succeed in doing something very difficult, something that they were unlikely to accomplish, like a scam, finishing a lot of work in a short time, or holding their breath for 2 minutes.

So the difference between your two example sentences is that the second one includes the meaning that John succeeded in scamming Jane, and that it was difficult for John to scam Jane, while the first one does not say if John was successful, or if it was difficult.

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