from or off

from or off

Postby Léopold on Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:18 pm

Dear Prof,

In the following sentences :

1. Paul has fallen ... his bike while riding to school.
2. Michael has fallen ... a tree he was climbing.

Are the words ‘from’ and ‘off’ appropriate to complete the two blanks above? Do they have the same meaning?

Thank you.

Re: from or off

Postby prof on Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:47 pm

Paul falls off his bike, and Michael falls from the tree.

The uses are not exactly the same, because while 'fall from' can be used in most cases, we can only 'fall off' things that we get on (or get onto).

So Paul can fall from his bike, but Michael cannot fall off a tree. However, Michael can fall off a branch of the tree, as he can 'get on' a branch but not 'get on' a tree.

The reason we can use 'fall from' more widely is because 'from' only says where the object started, not whether it was on or in that place. So (for example) rain can fall from the sky, but not off it.
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