(1) Harry’s broom had given a wild jerk and Harry swung off it. He was dangling from it, holding on with only one hand. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

(2) The stupid man swung off the enemy side. (From a Korean English-Korean Diction-ary)

I guess ‘off it’ (1) is the result of ‘swung’ and meaning ‘dangling from it.’ While in ‘swing off’(2), ‘off’ means away from the original place; and the result of ‘swing off’ is ‘the enemy side.’ Is this right understanding?

  • 1
    To swing off the enemy side does not really sound like a real sentence. The first meant that Harry almost fell off with a swinging motion
    – mplungjan
    Jun 27, 2013 at 12:04
  • What @Michel said. Without context, swinging off the enemy side is totally meaningless. Certainly not something you'd want to find presented as an example to people learning English. But here it is on a set of "flash cards". Jun 27, 2013 at 17:01
  • @FumbleFingers I followed your link and didn't see "swinging off the enemy". But I did see, "The man are very polite to the women" -- note "man are". Also the heading says "Fleshcards", which, sorry, just makes me think of an x-rated card game. I'm not sure that this is the best site for educational material.
    – Jay
    Jun 27, 2013 at 20:29
  • @Jay: OP's text appears about 3/4 of the way down. Not exactly legible on my display (all the examples are "fuzzed"), but Google Chrome's text search facility went straight to it when I searched for the word "swung". Whatever - OP asks truly excellent questions here sometimes, and s/he's not to know if some particular "unusual usage" is actually just an item of dubious provenance. I think your answer deals with the issue very well though, by making it clear that #1 is normal idiomatic English, whereas #2 is at the very least "awkward" (and probably not worth bothering with for most learners). Jun 27, 2013 at 20:46
  • @FumbleFingers It was definitely not my intent with my previous comment to criticize the person who posted the question. I certainly DON'T expect someone who is trying to learn the language to be able to identify bad examples. I was criticizing the web site you referenced, not the poster. PS I searched for "swung" on that page and the only hit is under a picture of poster that makes a crack about dumb looks. Well, I'm not really that concerned about finding the quote, it doesn't matter.
    – Jay
    Jul 2, 2013 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


In the first example, to "swing" is to move while or as if suspended from some central axis. Like a playground swing, where you move back and forth while hanging from a bar. "Off" here is an adverb meaning "away from" or "in a manner resulting in no longer being atop". So Harry is sitting on a broom and holding onto it, and he then moves in a swinging motion that results in him no longer being on the broom. I picture him holding on to the broom with one hand and moving in a semi-circular arc.

The second example is less clear. Is this an isolated sentence used as an example in a dictionary? It's very odd wording. We can talk of "swinging off" something in a literal, physical sense like in the first example. We often use the word "swing" metaphorically to describe someone going between two ideas, like "Jack swung back and forth between loving Sally and hating her". I would read that sentence to mean that the "stupid man" had taken the side of the enemy in some conflict, but now he has swung back to "our" side. But I've never heard someone use the phrasing "swing off a side" in the sense of a side in a conflict. You could say he "swung off the side of the building", but "swung off the enemy side", well, I think I understand the metaphor, but it just sounds awkward.


I would be careful of using Korean examples for correct English usage in general. Where English is concerned, the Korean culture seems more concerned with getting the point across than with getting the grammar correct. This is changing; Koreans are realizing that touting the quality of their goods and massacring our language while doing so creates a bit of a mixed message. (Back when I was managing a computer store, I recall receiving a flyer from a company in Korea that sold printed circuit boards. At the top of the flyer was the header "BEST QUALITY IS ALWAYS WHAT WE CONCERNED." I didn't buy any of their printed circuit boards.)

The site that FumbleFingers provides is a case in point. It purports to be a study site for English and yet it is full of beginner's errors.

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