go off of

philiponfire

New Member
English-English
I am helping a friend with the editing and proof reading of a story he is writing. He is American English speaking and I am English English speaking so sometimes there are cultural confusions.

he has used the sentence "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to go off of."
To me 'go off of' is wrong, even "go off" sounds wrong. Am I correct or is this normal American usage?

I have suggested "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to work from." or even ...physical description of her to work from.

your thoughts would be appreciated.
thankyou.
 
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  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Welcome, Philiponfire.

    Personally, I might have used "a physical description to go on"; there are other options, of course. For example, you could just delete the whole clause: "with only a physical description."

    Nonetheless, his phrasing, "only a physical description to go off of" strikes me as idiomatic in AE. It sounds natural, despite its convolutions.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I wouldn't call it "normal American usage". It is colloquial, spoken, youthful, and probably more West Coast than East Coast American usage. It is understood in casual conversation, and not appropriate to any kind of academic writing. Your suggested "work from" is more typical of what an older, less casual AE speaker would use in writing. Bibliolept's "to go on" is a more standard spoken or informal written form in AE.
     

    Adam Cruge

    Banned
    India & Bengali
    So what is the meaning of "to go off of" and "to go on"?

    And what is the meaning of this sentence; "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to go off of."
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Depending on context, "go on" could mean many things.

    As others have said, in "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to go off of/go on", the "go off of" or "go on" means "to work from" or "to use as our reference".


    For example, "It will be difficult to locate the car involved in the robbery with only a partial license plate number to go on. There are over a million cars in this city." The partial license plate number is the only clue or piece of information they have in their possession in order to locate the car. All they have to go on is the partial license plate number.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    So what is the meaning of "to go off of" and "to go on"?

    And what is the meaning of this sentence; "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to go off of."
    "To go on" (or "go off of" in this case, which means the same) means "on which to base further action" or "to use as information" (in order to take further action or decisions, draw conclusions, etc.), or "to work with".
     

    ericmlyn

    New Member
    English
    I wouldn't call it "normal American usage". It is colloquial, spoken, youthful, and probably more West Coast than East Coast American usage. It is understood in casual conversation, and not appropriate to any kind of academic writing. Your suggested "work from" is more typical of what an older, less casual AE speaker would use in writing. Bibliolept's "to go on" is a more standard spoken or informal written form in AE.
    Depending on context, "go on" could mean many things.

    As others have said, in "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to go off of/go on", the "go off of" or "go on" means "to work from" or "to use as our reference".


    For example, "It will be difficult to locate the car involved in the robbery with only a partial license plate number to go on. There are over a million cars in this city." The partial license plate number is the only clue or piece of information they have in their possession in order to locate the car. All they have to go on is the partial license plate number.

    I have never heard "work from" used in this context. I am not sure "work from" is the right phrase for such a sentence as "Still, this is a large area to cover with only a physical description to work from." I think it should be "work with." Can either of you clarify the usage with other examples?
     
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