"I bought this shirt offline." Is 'offline' okay to use to refer to something that was bought at a brick-and-mortar store? If not, what's the preferred way to say it in everyday conversations?

  • some people use IRL (In Real Life) as opposed to online. Although tee-shirts are real (usually).
    – njzk2
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:34
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    We don't use the expression IRL. We say AFK - Away from keyboard. We think the internet is for real. - Peter Sunde, Co-founder - The Pirate Bay Commented May 27, 2015 at 18:48
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    Sort of a generational thing too. I have noticed that some (older) folks tend to say "I bought this shirt offline" to mean they bought the shirt on the internet.
    – Jake
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 18:50
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    As @Jake said some people use the term incorrectly so I might assume they meant "online" and were confused about the terms. Commented May 27, 2015 at 19:35
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    Some people use "offline" when they mean "online". As in, "I bought this off this person", they would say "I bought this offline." It's not correct, but I hear it quite often, especially from older people who were adults before the internet came into common use. Commented May 28, 2015 at 13:09

7 Answers 7


"I bought this shirt online" sounds like normal, everyday conversation.  The most likely interpretation is that you bought the shirt through an internet application like a website.

"I bought this shirt offline" doesn't sound quite as normal and everyday.  It makes sense.  It's grammatically sound.  It's something that I might use myself.  Even so, it's not what I expect to hear.

What I expect to hear is "I bought it in person."  The "in person" suggests that you physically traveled to make the purchase -- that your own body was present for the transaction.

Even before the internet existed, this sense of "in person" was in common use.  It was (and still is) used to exclude possibilities like doing something through the mail or over the telephone.  It also excludes sending someone else to do the job.

A simple Google search for "online or in person" shows about a million and a half examples of those two phrases expressing the very contrast that you want.

  • This is more or less the same as other answers but you put it extremely clearly and simply. Well done. Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:07
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    I would say, "I bought it at a store" because 'In person' sounds like youre meeting up with a person to do something, not exactly the same as 'physically'. Speaking of which, you could get away with saying, "I bought it physically/ at a physical store." Commented May 27, 2015 at 20:36

I didn't buy this shirt online. I bought it at (name of store).

I didn't buy this shirt online. I bought it at Muggy's.

You could also say something like

I didn't buy this shirt online. I bought it locally at Muggy's.


I didn't buy this shirt online. I bought it at Muggy's on 5th Street.


I didn't buy this shirt from Muggy's online, but from Muggy's locally (or: on 5th Street).

While the use of offline is grammatically correct, it is not the most common way to say it in everyday conversation, at least in American English.


I am not sure if it is correct, but it would not be normally used. You could say:

I didn't buy this shirt online

To me, offline would sound like buying it on a computer, without the use of internet.


Online originally meant connected to a network, usually the internet. However, also in a company network, both clients and servers may be online.

Offline, as its opposite, meant not connected to a network.

A server could be on- or offline, or your workstation, or even a specific application on your computer.

With the raise of internet, online, in the sense of connected to the internet, became synonymous with while I was using an application that was online (connected to the internet), as in “I bought this book online.”

It makes sense that offline, in a similar way, comes to mean:

A) while I was using an application that was offline (not connected to the internet).

However, it seems that offline more and more gets the sense of the opposite of the new meaning of online, rather than evolve from the old meaning of offline:

B) while I was not (using an application that was online (connected to the internet)).

These two meanings are quite different. I assume that most people would read your sentence as having meaning B, but you do risk people reading it as A, in which case your sentence makes little sense.

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    In the US, people might ask if an item had been purchased online. But if it had been purchased at a so-called "brick-and-mortar" establishment, the answer is not likely to be "No, I got it offline." Offline does not (yet) mean "at a shop one can physically enter, where one can touch the merchandise and examine it in person". In the US, offline refers to a machine being taken out of service (not necessarily a computer--a generator could be taken offline).
    – TimR
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 12:07
  • @TRomano: that is why I didn't say that meaning B) was the most used one :) About the generator: good example. That thing also gets disconnected from a network when it goes offline :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:29
  • If you use computers all day, it's easy to get a distorted view of the currency of internet terms among the general population. Most people here in the US would not think "he was using an application (temporarily) disconnected from the internet when he bought that shirt" if someone had said "I bought this shirt offline". Most people would probably not know what he meant. Younger people who shop online a lot or work in I.T. might puzzle it out to mean "at a brick-and-mortar shop", but people over 50 (who do shop online in large numbers) don't really have the "lingo" down.
    – TimR
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 13:50
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    Younger tech worker here. Personally, whether I understood this usage would probably depend on the context. I think if it was in the context of a lot of people talking about the shirts they'd bought online (in the more modern sense), I'd understand; otherwise, I might understand but I'd probably wonder why they didn't say where they got the shirt. It would be like someone saying "I bought it indoors"--all right, but where?
    – Milo P
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:11
  • Somebody who has asperger might interpret the sentence as meaning A, but ordinary folk (anyone under 75 who has seen and used a computer and knows what the Internet is) will understand what the speaker is saying.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 19:02

Offline could be used in a situation like that, but is generally not the most natural/common way to say it.

I might say that as

I bought this shirt at [name of store].

Or, if the context makes the meaning clear (e.g. someone asked Did you buy that shirt online?), simply...

I bought this shirt in a store.

(being American, I'd use store here, I believe British-English would use shop)

If you're conversing over an informal text-based medium (e.g. text messages, IM, etc.) you might use the acronym IRL (in real life).

I bought the shirt IRL.

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    I fear my immediate response to "I bought this shirt in a store." would be, "well, duh, where else do you buy stuff?" (Online stores are, after all, still stores.) Oddly enough, "at a store" sounds much better, but I'm not sure why. Commented May 27, 2015 at 23:47
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    @Harry to me, in suggests a physical location. E.g. I wouldn't say I bought it in Amazon.com, but I might say I bought it in Walmart. I might use at with either.
    – Tim S.
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:56
  • I dunno. Consider: "Darn. I can't get into gmail, the system must be down." "I've got a problem with my computer - I can't log in." Varies by individual, no doubt, and perhaps I'm in the minority. Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:36

As in any language, words and usage evolve in English. The word offline is commonly used to refer to retail stores (do a Google search for "buy offline").

Though offline is not the most common way to express the idea, it does it very well and is going to become a part of my personal usage.

So @Bharath Manjesh, I would say your use of offline is on the leading edge of English language development.


While offline may be coming to mean "not using the Internet", it cannot be used in this sentence.

There is a common (millions of Google hits documented) phrase

I bought (or ordered or got) this item off (name of source).

and someone hearing you say

I bought this shirt offline.

is liable to misinterpret it as

I bought this shirt off Line.

and ask you why they've never heard of this store before.

Your usage has also been discussed on the English Language Usage and Grammar site where the clarification of "I bought it off the internet" is suggested, which is the exact opposite of what you mean.

Don't do this.

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