The 3rd entry for top in macmillan:

I’ve lost the top off my shampoo bottle.

I fully understand the meaning of this example, but I'm not quite sure of what syntactic role off my shampoo bottle plays in it. In Chinese we don't say it like this. We would simply say "I’ve lost the top of my shampoo bottle."

It doesn't look like a preposition phrase modifying the top. It doesn't act as an object complement to me, either.

Meanwhile, is it OK to say "I’ve lost the top from my shampoo bottle."?

  • we say off because the top came off of the bottle- it was on, now it's off, and it's lost.
    – Jim
    Aug 22, 2015 at 22:03

3 Answers 3


The preposition phrase off my shampoo bottle is actually modifying top. We use off like this to show that something is usually in a specific place (that it isn't in right now).

We can show that this is part of a noun phrase by using the noun phrase in different position in another sentence:

  • The top off my shampoo bottle has disappeared.

Here we see the top off my shampoo bottle functioning as the Subject of a sentence. This would suggest that we might want to treat top off my shampoo bottle as a complete noun phrase in the Original Poster's sentence too. In the OP's sentence it is a Direct Object.

We could also passivise the Original Poster's sentence. This would give us the inelegant, but grammatical:

  • The top off my shampoo bottle has been lost.

This sentence is a bit formal for such a trivial event, but it still makes perfect sense. Because the whole noun phrase the top off my shampoo bottle has become the Subject, it shows that this phrase is one constituent.

  • This is interesting. Does "the top on my shampoo" mean the same thing in your example? @Araucaria
    – Kinzle B
    Aug 23, 2015 at 5:55
  • Ah, I see. The top isn't on the shampoo bottle; it's somewhere else but now it's missing.
    – Kinzle B
    Aug 23, 2015 at 13:38
  • @KinzleB Exactly so. When we say off x with this meaning, it means that right now it isn't in that place. But when we say on it usually is actually in the normal place. :) Aug 23, 2015 at 15:49
  • I didn't expect there is a preposition which locates where a thing is absent. In our language it's impossible.
    – Kinzle B
    Aug 23, 2015 at 23:58

It's a case of "on" vs. "off". If the top is on the bottle, the bottle is closed. If it's off, it's open. We often use (at least in British English) "off" where it is largely synonymous with from (note: you can say "the top from my bottle" as you propose).

Hey. Isn't that the guy off the TV?

I got a new jacket off the Internet.

In the examples above you can replace "off" with "on" and "from".

  • Perhaps it's a mingling of "top of the bottle" and "take/come off". Aug 22, 2015 at 22:27
  • I didn't mention top "of" the bottle, since we wouldn't say it in this case, due it to leading to possible confusion between the bottle-top (ie. the cap) and the top of the bottle (ie. the upper region of the bottle).
    – JMB
    Aug 22, 2015 at 22:32
  • Even with 'cap' or 'stopper' or 'lid', you could still say 'lost [it] off my shampoo bottle'. I am simply suggesting that the use of the preposition 'off' with the verb 'lose' was influenced by the same use with verbs take/come. Aug 22, 2015 at 22:36
  • Agreed. Any phrasal verbs using "on" and "off". Put on, screw on, take off, fall off. These all provide that influence.
    – JMB
    Aug 22, 2015 at 22:46

In American English, any of several prepositions work here. They're either going to describe the position of the cap relative to the bottle or the possession of the cap by the bottle.

I've lost the top from the bottle.
I've lost the top off the bottle.
I've lost the top of the bottle.
I've lost the top off of the bottle.

Technically "the top of the bottle" could mean that the upper part of the actual bottle was somehow misplaced, but there is no reasonable way for that to happen during a shower, so it would automatically be understood to mean a missing cap. Only a truly pedantic person would give you trouble about it.

"Off of" is idiomatic and informal, but it is definitely used.

  • Reminds me of an elephant joke: Q: how do you get down off of an elephant? A: You don't; you get down off of a duck! Aug 23, 2015 at 11:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .