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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: 'out of' vs. 'off of'
Question: Why do you get ''out'' of a chair, but ''off'' of a sofa, bench, etc.? Is is
just a colloquialism, or is there a root cause? Conversely, you sit ''in''
a chair, but ''on'' a bech, sofa, stool, etc.

Reply: I've been on holiday so may be responding over-late to this interesting question. However, in case this adds anything to my fellow-panelists' comments:

Since your name sounds non-English, it might be as well to mention first, with all due respect, that in standard English one doesn't say "off of" anything: the preposition is just "off", without any "of" following (It fell off the wall, he got off the bench, etc.). But that is a side-issue to your question, about the distinction between "out of" and "off". I would say the answer to that is, first, that the ideal chair is being thought of as an easy chair with sides and arms as well as seat and back, so that when sitting in it you really are largely enclosed by it – which would not apply to other things you can sit on. But furthermore, if one is thinking of a simple chair that just has a back and a seat, then in English as I know it one would be very likely to say "sit on the chair" (rather than "in"), and "get off the chair" (rather than "out of"). In other words, in usage I am familiar with there is really no conventionality or irregularity here, the various prepositions are used just in the way one would predict from the shapes of the various objects usable for sitting.

Geoffrey Sampson

Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
Date: 15-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: 'out of' vs. 'off of'    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (03-Oct-2012)
  2. Re: 'out of' vs. 'off of'    Susan D Fischer     (03-Oct-2012)
  3. Re: 'out of' vs. 'off of'    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (04-Oct-2012)

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