This Week’s Grammar Pet Peeve: “Off Of”

Syllabus Montreal Translation English FrenchOf all my English language pet peeves, prepositions rank among the highest. I can only imagine how frustrating they must be to those learning the language. It can’t be easy making sense of those pesky two- and three-letter words that seem to mean the opposite of what they say, like the alarm goes off (meaning it actually goes on and makes a sound). And then there are those prepositions that mean nothing at all, as in the phrasal verb get up to (as in what are you getting up to today?).

With that in mind, I’m all for eliminating certain prepositions—especially those that just clutter up the page, while adding nothing to the meaning. Take, for instance, the “off of” construction, as in “the cup fell off of the table.” In most instances, you can safely remove “of” following “off” without compromising your meaning.

Another extraneous preposition that always irks me is the “at” that often crops up at the end of utterances like “Where’s the meeting at?” Lop off the “at” and you’ve lost nothing. Again, “What time is the meeting at?” can be chopped down to “What time is the meeting?” No loss of meaning there.

That said, some of the most colourful phrases in English are chock full of prepositions, many of which are sprinkled throughout this article. That’s why it’s a pet peeve, not a hard and fast rule.

What’s your biggest language pet peeve?

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