7

I have read a sentence from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4”:

The teachers have really been cracking down on kids copying off of each other this year.

How to understand "off of"? Please parse it.

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    Or right in the first line in the popular song "Knockin' on heaven's door" by Bob Dylan it says: "Mama, take this badge off of me". – Em1 Sep 4 '13 at 8:02
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    It's worth noting that, in this case, of is optional. You could say: "...cracking down on kids copying off each other this year," and the sentence would mean the same thing. – J.R. Sep 4 '13 at 8:45
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    J.R., you're right. It's unnecessary and seems to be a part of American English in particular. – Tristan Sep 4 '13 at 12:05
  • @J.R., Tell me if I am wrong. In maximum of the cases where I have come across off of constructs, I observed "off" is part of a phrasal verb, e.g. "Get Off of me; I always interpreted that when off of occurs, it means off is part of the phrasal verb (Get off in the example) and of acts as from, however the answer here does not support my theory. So am I wrong in this understanding? – Mistu4u Sep 22 '13 at 17:54
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    @Mistu4u - Yes, off can be part of phrasal verbs. Moreover, in such cases, the of may be optional (e.g., "Get off me!" vs. "Get off of me!" or "Copy the equation off the board" vs "Copy the equation off of the board"). For more details, you can look at this list; most seem to omit the of, but you can find some where of is included. – J.R. Sep 22 '13 at 18:42
5

Off of in that context means from.

So the children are copying from one another and the teachers are trying hard to stop it.

Off of is quite informal. It is being used here because it's meant to be a child talking or narrating.

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    Teachers would often write things on the board and ask students to copy them off the board and into their notebooks. It naturally follows that students, once having learned to copy off things, would try copying answers off of another person's paper/test. – Jim Sep 4 '13 at 7:50
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    In the U.S., I don't think off of is any more informal than off. – Peter Shor Jan 2 '14 at 16:04
9

You get into a box. (Although you can also get in it, which means the same thing.) Once you have gone into it, you are then in it.

Similarly, you can get out of a box. Once you have gone out of it, you are then outside it.

In the U.S., off of and off correspond to into and in. You can jump off of the roof. (You can also jump off it; this means the same thing.) Once you have jumped off of it, you are then off it (but maybe you need to go into the hospital; don't try this at home).

The phrase "off of" was used in the U.K. in exactly the same way before 1750 or so; for example, in 1724 Daniel Defoe wrote

and with that he flung himself off of his Horse.

If you look at Google Ngrams you can see a remarkable drop in the frequency of "off of" in English between 1740 and 1780. It's rebounded more in the U.S. than in the U.K. Possibly some authority declared that it was redundant or ungrammatical in the early 18th century, and people started avoided it in formal writing. Or (since I can't find any such authority) maybe this was just how the language evolved in England.

There seem to be some people who seem to have the idea that off of is a recent abomination that has polluted the English language, and that you should only ever use off or from. Remarkably, considering that off of is more common in the U.S., a considerable fraction of these people are Americans. I think these people are wrong, and should be ignored.

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    See, for example, How can I explain to people that the phrase “off of ” is grammatically incorrect, although I mote you previously commented on an answer there. Okay I'll get off of (*from) your back now. – Alan Carmack Jul 2 '16 at 14:16
  • I am not sure these people are "wrong". They are simply pointing out that English, as in use today, does not require the redundant second "of" since "jump off" adequately describes the very same thing that "jump off off" supposedly does. People are of course free to do whatever they want: just like redefine "literally" to mean "not literally". What I wonder about (and will google soon) is whether "into" and "onto" used to be "in to" and "on to" at some point. In my mind, "jump into" is subtly different from "jump in", in that the first describes the motion for vividly. – urnonav Jan 15 at 16:23
2

There are two things to be aware of.

1) To copy off of someone is a phrasal verb meaning that you're copying content from their paper. This has a different meaning from simply to copy, which can be to copy someone's information from anywhere (from online, from a book, and not necessarily from their paper). The way it's used usually implies that the person is with their work at the time. To copy off someone (without of) is also common and carries the same meaning.

2) Off of versus off: Few people have retained this awareness, but off of is the correct preposition to use with a transitive verb, as in

We jumped off of the boat and into the water.

Many today would simply say

We jumped off the boat and in the water.

which is technically incorrect unless we jumped (around) while we were on the boat and also while we were in the water.

0

According to Google Ngram Viewer: 1) "off of" is about twice as common in American English as in British English.

2) "of" is the 10th most common word to follow "off" in American English and slightly lower than the 10th most common in British English. (There are some other differences in words and orders.)

-4

As one stated. It's only ever off, not off of.

You can have off of in a sentence but never together.

Eg. I jumped off the ladder. I jumped off the top of the ladder.

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    You should provide citations to prove that this is the case, or at least a strong argument. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 20 '15 at 23:00
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    "Only" and "never" are such strong words, yet a quick Google search yilelds hundreds of counterexamples – many from reputable sources, such formal safety brochures. Books, too. (As a footnote, I beleive this is more common in AmE than BrE.) – J.R. Aug 21 '15 at 9:34

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