Take off

By Maeve Maddox

A reader asks about the phrase “take off”:

I read a line that said “take off Saturday,” which I had always understood to be “to take Saturday off.” What do you think?

“To take off” is a phrasal verb used with more than one meaning.

When the sense is “to stay away from work,” the particle off may appear next to take or following the day mentioned as being taken off. For example:

I felt wiped out, and I was dreading Sunday each week, so I decided to take Saturday off to have a very simple day to read and explore my purpose in life. 

The new law entitles workers at factories, eateries, hotels, movie theaters and private hospitals to take off Saturday or Sunday. 

“Take Saturday off” may be more common, but “take off Saturday” is not incorrect.

Here are some other examples of take off used as a verb:

Do you take your shoes off while on a plane? (remove)

The video shows a UFO that appears behind a commercial airliner taking off from the airport. (leaving the ground to fly)

Have you ever watched someone’s career take off and wondered “Why isn’t that me?” (become successful)

 “It’s not like her to just take off like that. (leave suddenly without telling anyone)

You’ve booked your trip, researched the must-see attractions, recharged your electronics, packed your bags — and now you’re ready to lock the door and take off on your big vacation. (leave, get started)

Here are examples of the noun take-off:

When you fly, at take-off, there is a strange feeling in your body, not explicable, but strange. (the moment an airplane lifts off the ground)

There seems to be a lot of things going on during the crucial moment of take off, and to a good extent, setting up for a take off. (the moment a surfboard connects with a wave)

Tomlin sings “I Got You Babe” with Scred the Muppet and does a take-off on scat singing with some of the cast members, dressed as Bees. (a parody of)

Because the verb take off has so many meanings, its use can lead to ambiguity, especially in contexts intended for non-native speakers of English.

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1 Response to “Take off”

  • Andy Knoedler

    Fair enough. Both “take Saturday off” and “take off Saturday” are possible. However, the latter is a bit busier because of another context: “My trip will start when I take off Saturday.” This is a usage that became prevalent when it was decided that “on” before the name of a day could be jettisoned.
    On the other hand, the only possible confusion over the former is from an odd sentence such as “We’ve agreed to take Saturday off the list of casual dress days.”

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