clear off [cleared some shelves off]

LQZ

Senior Member
Mandarin
I’ve cleared some shelves off in the bathroom.
Right, one bathroom.
Dear all,

I ran into the above at another forum, and the threader and I are discussing the meaning of "clear off" in this case. We found:

1 The Oxford Dictionary states that "clear off" means "to make sth empty and clean by removing things or throwing things away".
2 The learner's Dictionary says that "clear off" means "to remove things from (an area or surface)".

Thus, we infer two meanings of the original.
1 I've cleared something from some shelves in the bathroom.
2 I've removed some shelves in the bathroom to make it empey.

Now could you tell me which one is correct? Thanks.


LQZ
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I have never hear clear off in the sense of clear up/away. It must be an outdated use of the verb.

    I would have written clear up some shelves or clear some shelves up, meaning to get rid of dirt(perhaps tidy up is better).
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Clear off is not much used in AE, but I've come across it from time to time. Most often, the meaning had nothing to do with removing things from a surface. Instead, it was used to refer to people leaving a place. It was informal, colloquial speech. When it is used in the sense described in the first post, it is often a variant of clear, meaning to remove everything.

    Teacher: Children, clear off your desks now. We are going to have a quiz.

    This is exactly equivalent to "Children, clear your desks now...
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I might clear the leaves off the path, or clear the moss off the wall, or possibly clear the kids' toys off the floor.
    But I wouldn't clear off a shelf, or clear a shelf off; I would clear the shelf.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The 'area' in the words 'area or surface' in one of those definitions needs to be interpreted narrowly: not an area meaning a "region". The bathroom is an area where you can leave a bicycle or some old clothes in boxes, but it's not a flat area. You could clear shelves (or bicycles) out of it, but not off it. So only the sense "clear the shelves" works here.
     

    180WestBrooks

    New Member
    American English
    I have never hear clear off in the sense of clear up/away. It must be an outdated use of the verb.

    I would have written clear up some shelves or clear some shelves up, meaning to get rid of dirt(perhaps tidy up is better).
    In the Southern U.S., "clear off" is still used in the clear away sense. The "clear off your desk" was a good example. Another would be "the car accident was cleared off and traffic resumed in all lanes".

    Clear up has more of a meaning of clarification (as in "he cleared up the instructions") or resolution ("they cleared up their differences").

    In your example of "clear up some shelves", your meaning would be understood, though it would be considered an odd way of saying it.

    In the original poster's example of taking shelves down, I think "removing shelves" would be more correct than "clearing shelves". I believe most would understand "clearing shelves" in the clearing away sense (meaning clearing items off the shelves), not the removing sense.

    Hope that helped clear things up.
     
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