go off v. go down

Russula emetica

Banned
Russian - Russia
Dear all,

Here's another series of the confusing pharasal verb pairs:
go down 6 (informal) to get worse in quality
The neighbourhood has gone down a lot recently.
go off 7 (BrE) to get worse in quality
Her books have gone off in recent years.
Are they interchangeable? Can we just change the prepositions in these two sentences without damaging the meaning?

Thank you.
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    The neighbourhood going down tells me that it has gone down in social status (i.e. there is some actual descent, albeit figurative) and has become less attractive for some reason.

    I would not use the second one to describe books - I agree with FF above. 'Go off' has the suggestion of something going 'bad', e.g. milk.
     
    Last edited:

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would not use the second one to describe books - I agree with FF above. 'Go off' has the suggestion of something going 'bad', e.g. milk.
    I agree with the two of you.

    Furthermore, "The neighbourhood has gone down a lot recently" sounds a bit strange to me; I would say "The neighbourhood has really gone downhill recently."

    Not the OALD's finest moment, even when we allow for the fact that there isn't enough room in dictionaries for every last nuance, every possible comment about usage, etc.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You need to allow for the fact that there are few real synonyms; that there may be differences of usage and nuance between words and expressions for which a dictionary gives the same definition. Dictionaries are just starting points; they can only take you so far.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    It occurs to me that 'her books have gone off' seems to tell me their quality deteriorated while they were lying on the shelves... In fact, I find it amusing. :) Which is not to say I question the validity of the dictionary example - there may be people who would use that expression to mean what the dictionary says.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    They definitely aren't interchangeable in American English. The second one is noted as BrE.

    We would generally say "the milk has gone bad".

    For the author, we would also use the (more correct version) of the first one. "Her books have gone downhill in recent years."

    "The neighborhood has gone downhill in recent years."
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    If you look at the OALD (go-off phrasal verb - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com), the 'go bad' meaning is listed separately (sense 6), the the sense referred to by Russula is sense 7.

    6 (British English) if food or drink goes off, it becomes bad and not fit to eat or drink
    7 (British English) to get worse in quality
    Her books have gone off in recent years.

    For me, that sentence means that her books have gone down in popularity. Go down is to do quality and go off is to do with popularity.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    We just wouldn't say "go off". If someone here "goes off", that means they've lost their temper and are making a scene.

    "Wow, I've never seen him go off like that before."

    We would say something like, "Her books just aren't as popular as they used to be."
     
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