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The Phrasal Verb 'Get Off' Explained Part 2

Updated: Mar 19

A detailed explanation of how to use the phrasal verb 'get off' correctly like a native speaker. This is the second of two parts....for the first part click here.

Hello and welcome to this instalment of Phrasal Verbs Explained; a blog which aims to help you understand English phrasal verbs in a clear and coherent way, so that you can use them to improve your English and sound more like a native speaker.

This week's post is the second part of my focus on the phrasal verb 'get off', which has so many meanings that it wasn't possible (or fair) to list them all on one blog post. So to recap, in part one, posted last week, we looked at the two literal forms of 'get off', plus the meanings of to leave, to finish work, to have time off from work and to receive a less severe punishment than expected. With all that in mind, let's now take a look at the other meanings of 'get off'....




Number of meanings

11 (sorry)

Literal meaning


Idiomatic meaning




Past forms

Got / gotten Got / gotten

British or American?


For more explanation of the terms in the table above, click here


MEANING 7: To fall asleep (idiomatic)

​CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced





Potential synonyms

To fall asleep, to drift off

So we are going to start today's post with our seventh meaning of 'get off', which means to fall asleep, normally after finding it difficult to do so.

It is often used by frustrated and tired English speakers when they did not have much sleep the night before because it took them a long time to 'get off to sleep'. It is not always used in a negative way however and could also be used to say that we fell asleep immediately or in the same way that we usually do.

You may also be familiar with the expression 'to get to sleep', which is also commonly used by native speakers and means the same thing. There is no difference in the meaning here that I can tell; I just think that 'get off to sleep' sounds a little nicer.

Example of usage....

I didn't get to sleep until about midnight last night!

It is also possible to use a direct object here when talking about making another person go to sleep (through comfort and not boredom). As you can probably imagine from the context, this is normally used by adults referring to babies and small children.

Examples of usage....

It took me so long to get off to sleep last night. I am absolutely shattered* today! INTENDED MEANING: I did not fall asleep for a long time last night, so today I am very tired.
She was so tired that she got off to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. INTENDED MEANING: She fell asleep as soon as she got into bed as she was so tired.
Lisa tried all night to get her daughter off to sleep but nothing worked. INTENDED MEANING: Lisa tried to make her baby go to sleep for the whole night without success.

* Shattered is an informal adjective meaning very tired or exhausted.


MEANING 8 : To send something (idiomatic)

Red post box

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced





Potential synonyms

To send, to send off, to despatch

Ok, so now we are on to meaning eight of the phrasal verb 'get off'. As you can see, it is very versatile and has a large number of different uses, so I hope you are keeping up 🤪.

This eighth meaning of 'get off' means to send something and this is normally in reference to an email, parcel or a letter in the post. This usage is a little informal, however it is still fine to use in a professional work environment, apart from perhaps official documentation and legal documents. Another similar phrasal verb that could be used as an interchangeable synonym here is 'send off', with no real change in meaning.

For this usage, we usually also need to add the extra preposition 'to' and the name of the recipient.

Examples of usage....

I have written the email and will get it off to my manager shortly. INTENDED MEANING: The email to my manager is ready to send and I will send it very soon.
We have got a birthday card off to him in the post, so he should receive it in the next couple of days. INTENDED MEANING: His birthday card has been sent in the post and should be delivered in the next few days.

MEANING 9: To enjoy something intensely (idiomatic)

 A lady throwing her head back in a field

​CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced





​Potential synonyms

​To get a kick out of, to enjoy (a lot), to be excited by something

For our ninth usage, we need to add the additional preposition 'on', to give us 'to get off on something', which means to enjoy something intensely. This is an informal way of describing when people get an element of excitement or a buzz from doing something and can often be used for something sexual in nature.

We also use it to talk about criminals' enjoyment of the crimes that they commit, bosses and senior employees in companies who enjoy the power that they have or also when someone enjoys a type of drug or natural high. The main idea behind this usage however, is that the enjoyment experienced by the person is intense.

Examples of usage....

My friend gets off on true crime podcasts. He really loves them. INTENDED MEANING: My friend very much enjoys listening to true crime podcasts.
Lisa's boss loves the power of his position; he really gets off on it. INTENDED MEANING: Lisa's boss intensely enjoys the feeling of power that he has.

MEANING 10: To French kiss someone (idiomatic)

CEFR Language Level

C1 - Advanced





​Potential synonyms

To kiss, to make out

Ok bear with me, we are nearly there now...

For the tenth meaning on our whistle-stop tour* of the phrasal verb 'get off', we are looking at a usage which is particular to British English and means to French kiss someone i.e. to kiss someone using tongues in a romantic or sexual way. This would be the equivalent of 'make out' in American English. For this usage, the additional preposition 'with' is required in order to say who the amorous person was kissing.

From my experience, this is mainly used by teenagers and young adults and is not something that you are likely to hear often, so let's move on to the final meaning of 'get off'.

*A whistle-stop tour is a tour on which someone visits many different places in a short period


MEANING 11: To be given something by someone (idiomatic)

A young boy with sitting down with a party hat on and a birthday present

CEFR Language Level

B2 - Upper Intermediate





​Potential synonyms

To take, to fetch, to receive

So, now we come to the last meaning of 'get off' that we are going to look at on this blog post....give yourselves a pat on the back for coming this far! Only one more to go!

We use this final meaning of 'get off' to express when a person gives us something or when we receive something from another person. It is also possible to use it when we take something from someone, however this is only with their consent and would not normally be used to talk about stealing something from them.

A direct object is required here to express the item that we are getting or receiving and this needs to go between 'get' and 'off'. This could be something that somebody gives us, like a birthday present or alternatively it could be something that we need to get from somebody else for a work purpose.

This form is an alternative (and perhaps more informal) form of to get something from someone.

Examples of usage....

I got some lovely birthday presents off my parents this year. INTENDED MEANING: My parents gave me some nice presents.
John: Where did you get that cake? Lisa: I got it off Helen, she has brought some homemade cakes into the office today. INTENDED MEANING: Lisa had one of the cakes that Helen had made at home and brought into the office.
Can you go and get the signed report off the CEO before you leave today, please. INTENDED MEANING: The person is being asked to ask the CEO to give him the signed report.


Memorise and use the sentences below in conversations to help your English come across as more natural and fluent....

It took me so long to get off to sleep last night!
No matter what I try, I just can't seem to get off to sleep.
I will get this off to you straight away!
Can you get this [letter / email] off to [person] as soon as possible.
[person] really gets off on [noun]!
Can you go and get the [noun] off [person].
I got a [noun] off [person] for my birthday.


Before finishing the post, I just want to make you aware of another couple of common expressions that native speakers often use with 'get off'....

To get off to a good / bad start = This expression is used all the time by native speakers to say if something has started well or badly. Other adjectives to mean good or bad are also perfectly acceptable to use here.

Examples of usage....

The English football team got off to a good start in the World Cup but then crashed out in the semi finals.
My day got off to a really bad start when my alarm did not go off and I overslept!

To get off the subject = To start talking about discussing things during a conversation which are not relevant to the main subject being discussed. It is also possible to use the alternative "to get off topic", which means the same.

Examples of usage....

We started talking about the current political situation but somehow we got off the subject and ended up talking about online videos.
We seem to have gotten off topic, can we get back to the subject at hand please!

Where do you get off? = This is an idiomatic expression that native speakers use when they want to express to someone that they feel that they are being rude, impolite or patronising towards them. In other words, what gives you the right to treat me like that? This idiom is often followed by the verb in the continuous form.

Examples of usage....

Where do you get off talking to me like that?!
Where does she get off trying to tell us what to do! She is not our manager!


Re-write the following sentences using 'to get off':

  1. Roger drank too much coffee yesterday and struggled to fall asleep last night.

  2. My secretary will make sure that the signed document is sent to you today.

  3. The burglar really enjoys the thrill of stealing money from rich people.

  4. I received a new guitar from my wife for my birthday this year!

  5. The cricket game started terribly as it started to rain five minutes after play commenced.

  6. We were supposed to be brainstorming marketing ideas for the new product but ended up talking about the company's debts.

The answers are available here


EXERCISE ANSWERS FROM GET OFF PART 1 (other variations may be possible)

  1. We have to get off the train at London King's Cross station.

  2. The lid on the beer bottle is stuck fast, I can't get it off!

  3. I am not going to get off work until 6.30pm today and it looks like I am not going to be able to get tomorrow off either!

  4. It's 4.45pm, so I think I should get off now to avoid the rush hour traffic.

  5. When Lisa listens to classical music it gets her mind off the stress of her job.

  6. The fraudster got off with a sentence of 3 months in prison; a punishment that was much less severe than everybody had predicted.


That is the end of today's post. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and I sincerely hope that it has helped you a little bit further on your English learning journey.

If you found the post useful, please like and share it on social media, so together we can help as many English learners as possible to understand and master these tricky phrasal verbs.

Also, please leave any comments, questions, suggestions or examples of 'get off' below. I really love reading them. See you next time!

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Xiaoxue Sun
Xiaoxue Sun
Mar 11

thank you so much! This is the first passage I can finish reading since I decided to learn phrasal verbs! This is interesting and accessible to starters like me! Greeting from China!!

Mar 12
Replying to

Hi Xiaoxue, thank you so much for your comments! I am really pleased that it was beneficial for you! James (Phrasal Verbs Explained) 😀



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