Learn English – ‘Take it off him’ meaning ‘take it from him’ is incorrect – but what is the grammatical reason


'I took it off him' OR 'I took it from him'. I know that the second version is correct (unless it refers to an item that is literally on top of somebody, eg a wardrobe had fallen on someone), but what is the grammatical explanation?

Best Answer

Notwithstanding the excellent points made about this not being a grammatical issue, off is not even "wrong" in any aspect. It may not be a word you would use in an elevated register, but it is certainly used to express a nuance in slang that from doesn't handle or for which it seems too formal or "correct" a statement.

Simply put, off is often used with take (or get or any verb of acquisition) to suggest a forceful or cavalier (and probably illegitimate or even illegal) removal of an item from someone else, who has probably been victimized in the process.

My grandfather took this knife off a German soldier he killed in WWII.

The pickpocket got the Rolex off some dumb out-of-towner in Times Square.

Where did I get the candy bar? I took it off Alice during recess.

Especially in the latter two examples, the use of from would seem too formal and would probably at least give the impression that the transaction might have been in some sense legitimate.