I have the following sentence in my textbook:

The road to our house leaves the main road just after the service station.

(English Phrasal Verbs in Use, Advanced, Exercise 2.3)

It is asked to rewrite the sentence using the verb branch in an appropriate form. The textbook provides the following answer in the key:

The road to our house branches off (the main road) just after the service station.

Is it correct to say “branch off the main road”? According to Cambridge Dictionary (branch off, Cambridge Dictionary), the correct usage is:

We drove down a narrow track that branched off from the main road.

That is, “from” is necessary, which makes perfect sense to me: the verb “branch off” is intransitive.

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    I'm not sure it's useful to say to branch off is an "intransitive verb" if that's what makes you think “from” is necessary in your final example (it isn't, so you've somehow reached the wrong conclusion). Would you say that because to jump off is "intransitive" in the same way (i.e. - He jumped off is fine), it's necessary to include from in, say, He jumped off [from] the diving board. If so, you'd be wrong there too - including the (second) preposition is a stylistic choice. Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 15:03
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    @stangdon: Who knows how many instances in your NGram are for sawing a branch off [from] the tree? Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 15:06
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    ... here's the same chart, but looking for which branch off [from] the (which should mean every match is gfor the sought context). Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 15:10
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    @FumbleFingers A fair point. We could also look at branching off (from) the, which shouldn't have any confusion regarding tree branches.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


Here's a relevant usage chart...

enter image description here

...which to me suggests that nothing much has changed regarding the choice of preposition after to branch over the last couple of centuries.

You can use off or from, OR both. They all mean the same, and none are much more or much less common than any others, so it's entirely a stylistic choice which to use. Singling out to branch off as an "intransitive" verb doesn't seem particularly useful to me1.

1 See the results from this Google Books search for sentences ending with ...where it branches (a perfectly valid use of intransitive to branch that isn't associated with any particular preposition).

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