I read that bark someone isn't proper English, but, even if in a phrasal verb construct, it is used in a sentence from "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boy and Became Horse of the Year" by Brendan O'Meara.

With the coils of the bike's suspension barely depressed, the bike's owner bolted toward her and barked her off the bike, inspecting for any damages.

So, I was wondering why one cannot bark someone if, according to the above writer, bark someone off is grammatical.

Note that dictionaries I have consulted don't have an entry for bark off — even if, for example, bark out exists —, so I'm not sure what the meaning of "bark off" is in that context.

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    Actually, the dog barked me occurs several times in Google Books. But regardless of the discussion under @J.R.'s answer, I don't think it's a "proper English" usage. It's just that creative writers aren't really obliged to stick to "the rules" (which we assume they know, but choose to ignore in certain contexts). In this case, it's not a good example for a non-native speaker to copy. Sep 1, 2013 at 15:56
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    If you can be laughed off the stage, you can be barked off a bike. To say that these authors are being creative and ignoring the "rules" is to misrepresent what is going on. Our audience may be English learners, but they are also adult learners; I'm not going to pretend that English has "rules" that are being broken by established and accomplished writers.
    – J.R.
    Sep 1, 2013 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


I believe this could be paraphrased as: "...and yelled at her loudly until she got off the bike."

The verb bark can be used when describing someone yelling at someone else, especially in an annoying or intimidating manner:

She barked commands at her employees all day long.

In this case, she barked until someone got off the bike, which can be expressed as was done by the writer:

She barked her off the bike.

The same might be said if someone was yelling so much in a threatening way, that the other person ran out of the house in fear:

He barked her out of the house.

It's an unusual construct, but there's nothing ungrammatical about it.

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    +1 It's not in itself an established idiom, but it's an idiomatic construction: VERB Object preposition Location. An intransitive verb may thus be transitivized. You might "scream him out of the room" or "bluster him into submission" or "swagger them under the rug". Sep 1, 2013 at 11:57
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    It's so unusual I think in the context of ELL it might be more appropriate to simply say to bark somebody [into some changed state] is not a valid construction. Sep 1, 2013 at 12:41
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    @FumbleFingers The construction specifically with bark is indeed rare; but I think the construction itself is so common that learners would benefit from learning about it: "shouted him off the stage", "laughed her out of court", "spent him into the poorhouse", "sang them to sleep". Sep 1, 2013 at 14:28
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    @FumbleFingers Exactly. And if you're aware of the pattern it's easy to interpret the unusual lexeme. As NSs, we're 'aware' at some level of the pattern in shout off and laugh off and jeer off, so bark off makes intuitive sense. The NNS doesn't have that pattern; but even a very rare use like bark off provides us an occasion to pass that pattern on. Teach a man to fish ... Sep 1, 2013 at 15:16
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    @FumbleFingers: RE: All sorts of oddball usages may be acceptable .. but if non-native speakers come away with the impression this sort of construction is "normal", they'll end up sounding weird rather than fluent... I only explained the construct that was asked about; I don't see any benefit to not explaining it out of fear it'll be misused. To say, "in the context of ELL it might be more appropriate to simply say [it] is not a valid construction" is to bury one's head in the sand. With an odd usage from a book, better to explain why it's acceptable than declare it "invalid."
    – J.R.
    Sep 1, 2013 at 19:47

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