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While editing some stuff today, I came across “off late” a couple of times. It’s an error a lot of people make, so if you are also guilty of it, don’t worry about being the only one. Hopefully, after you have read this post, you won’t make the error again!

So, before I begin, let’s refresh the definition of adverbs, ok? You know that an adjective is a word that gives more information about a noun or a pronoun. Likewise an adverb gives more information about a verb, an adjective, clauses, sentences or even another adverb. Adverbs typically answer questions such as how?, in what way?, when?, where?, and to what extent?. This function is called the adverbial function, and is realized not just by single words (i.e., adverbs) but by adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses.

Now “late” can be an adjective or an adverb. As an adjective, “late” might mean “not on time”, among other things. As an adverb, “late” can mean “at the last minute”. In English, adverbs of manner (answering the question how?) are often formed by adding -ly to adjectives. So, by adding -ly to the adjective “late”, we make it an adverb to mean “in the recent past”. See how the adverb modifies the adjective? In a sentence like “I’ve been busy lately”, the adverb “lately” modifies the adjective “late”, as well as answers about the time through which I’ve been busy.

You do not always need to add -ly to an adjective to make it an adverb. You can also use “of” with the word “late” to mean the same thing as lately or recently. The word “of” is actually a preposition, but a number of prepositions can be used as adverbs when their function is to modify an adjective. So, “of late” turns that preposition into an adverb because the preposition “of” is describing an adjective, and not a noun on pronoun, as a true preposition would have done.

So as adverbs, all the following are correct:

He was in Paris recently.
Lately he has been living in Paris
He has been living in Paris of late.

On the other hand, “off” is mostly a preposition meaning:

  • so as no longer to be supported by, attached to, on, resting on, or unified with: Take your feet off the table! break a piece of bread off the loaf.
  • deviating from: off balance; off course.
  • below or less than the usual or expected level or standard: 20 percent off the marked price; I was off my golf game.
  • away, disengaged, or resting from: to be off duty on Tuesdays.
  • Informal: refraining or abstaining from; denying oneself the pleasure, company, practice, etc., of: He’s off gambling.

As an adverb, it can be used in the following senses:

  • so as to be no longer supported or attached: This button is about to come off.
  • so as to be no longer covering or enclosing: to take a hat off; to take the wrapping off.
  • away from a place: to run off; to look off toward the west.
  • away from a path, course, etc.; aside: This road branches off to Saltlake City.
  • so as to be away or on one’s way: to start off early; to cast off.

So you see, while “off” can be an adverb, in this case, it does not modify our adjective “late”, if you consider the senses in which it can be used as an adverb. Therefore, it is always “of late” and never “off late”.

And if I may say this, of late it has been a pleasure writing these posts.

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