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Could you tell me if there is any difference between buy something from someone and buy something off someone? For example:

I bought these off the wedding photographer.

I've come across this in the 3rd episode of the 1st episode of the TV show Narcos: Mexico.

2 Answers 2

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"Buy off" is much more informal, even casual, and is more common in some dialects than others. "Buy from" is standard English. There is no significant difference in meaning.

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You normally buy something from a retailer (someone whose business involves selling stuff).

If you buy something off someone, there's usually an implication that the person you bought it from isn't normally a "trader" AND/OR that you had to "persuade" them to part with the thing in exchange for your money (you "haggled").

This [potential] difference won't always apply, but it's worth pointing out that you'd probably never encounter I bought my Christmas turkey off a supermarket this year (that would always be ...from a supermarket).


In OP's specific context, we're not told what "these" are (the things bought off/from the wedding photographer). But the speaker would be unlikely to use off if what he'd bought was the pictures of his own wedding, taken by arrangement.

Using off would be much more likely if he'd bought something "unexpected" for the context, such as some unusual camera lens filters that the photographer just happened to show him (and was persuaded to let go for a price).

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  • Thank you for the great answer! Everything you said in your answer makes sense. Because the context is that an undercover police officer got the photographs from a photographer who had took the pictures at a wedding organized by criminals. Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 14:38
  • ...from a photographer who had taken the pictures at a wedding organized by criminals. There's no doubt that as @David says above, to buy [something] off [someone] is more informal than buying it from them. And the usage distinction I've made does usually apply (it's just extra helpful how closely your context matches that distinction). But I wasn't able to establish whether this is purely a British thing, or if you'd find the same (quite "fine", but well-observed) distinction in American, Australian, Canadian,... Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 16:56

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