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What is the difference between start and start off. Both sound the same to me except start off sounds more informal. Is off here a filler word to make the sentence more natural?

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Start off is not simply the same as start. It has two specific meanings:

  1. To begin a series of steps, as in a recipe. Example: "Start off by mixing together the vanilla and two eggs." Start by itself is also acceptable in this sentence: "Start by mixing together the vanilla and two eggs."
  2. To begin a trip, or journey. Example: "We're starting off for Chicago today."

There are many cases where start is acceptable where start off sounds strange, means something different, or is outright wrong. For example:

  • "Start baking the cookies" means to begin the activity of baking the cookies. "Start off baking the cookies" is also grammatical, but sounds like you're telling them which item to bake first, out of several options.
  • "The race started" sounds normal, while "The race started off" sounds like something is missing on the end of the sentence, perhaps "The race started off poorly for Johnson."
  • "Start the car" is acceptable, while "Start off the car" makes no sense.
  • I still don't understand the difference – MuriloKunze Feb 6 at 22:03

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