I need your help.

could anyone explain for me what is the difference between "call off" and "cancel" and when to use everyone.

  • 1
    Please: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/439/…
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 16:45
  • It's a very broad question. Everyone can give several examples and still fall short of highlighting all the differences. You might try reading some online dictionary, the kind that quotes examples from literature, media, etc. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 16:48
  • Or, oversimplify and say they are sysnoymous. Not good, either.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


To call X off means to stop X, possibly while it is in progress and usually temporarily. One calls off things like a major project or some other very involved process - or a dog or other attacker.

I called off the wedding.

The construction project has been called off for the time being.

Call off your guard dog. I'll behave myself, I promise.

  • One exception is to call off work ("work" sometimes being understood from context) means to request permission to be absent from work from your employer.

To cancel X also means to stop X, usually permanently and before it has started. One cancels things like small services, orders, or transactions.

I cancelled the order.

I cancelled my appointment at the hair stylist.

You can use cancelled for major projects too. That implies that it hasn't or never was started.

The construction project has been cancelled.

  • I infer from thd spelling "cancelled" that you are speaking of BrE when you say that "call off work" means to request permission to be absent from work. Doesn't sound like something one would hear in USA. If I heard somebody talking about calling off work, I would think that the boss decided to close for the day and give EVERYBODY the day off. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 11:37
  • That's right - "canceled" is the AmE way to spell it. At least in my local region in the U.S. we use "call off" to mean report an absence from work as well.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 13:38

In addition to the distinctions stated by @ultrasawblade, I would add that

  • Call off usually refers to an event in progress where an agent is acting on your instructions. You might call off a dinner date, but you would cancel the reservation at the restaurant. If you've scheduled a vacation at the end of the month, you could cancel your vacation, but it would sound weird to say that you are calling off your vacation.

  • Cancel can also be applied to objects as well as actions. For example, it is possible to cancel a cheque or a postage stamp.

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