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Is It Correct to Say “Based Off Of”?

Have you seen the new Marvel movie, which is based on a book? We hear this phrase, “based off of,” quite often, especially in conversations about popular media. Yet, is it correct to say “based off of”?

It is not grammatically correct to say “based off of.” The proper way to discuss a topic and its origins is to use the phrase “based on” instead of “based off of.” However, this phrase has become increasingly popular since the 1980s, and people tend to assume that its wide usage makes the phrase correct, even though it is not.

In this article, we’ll examine the phrase “based off of,” when you can use it, and when you should switch to the alternative “based on” instead. 

What Does “Based off of” Mean?

We use the phrase “based off of” to discuss the origins or foundation of a subject or topic.

We find the verb “base” at the heart of this phrase. As a verb, the word “base” means “to find a foundation or base for” (source). This is a handy word that we can use to discuss the basis or foundation of something.

If you use the phrase “based off of,” you will need to have two subjects or topics in mind and base one on the other. We suggest thinking about which subject or topic came first, as determining the chronology can help you use the phrase logically.

As a quick example, you might say that your idea to wake up at the time of the sunrise was based off of a book you read on circadian rhythm. 

Your listener will know that you first read this book, which gave you the idea to adjust your wake-up time. Therefore, your idea was “based off of” the concepts in the book.

Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Based off Of”?

Despite its popularity, it is not grammatically correct to say “based off of,” and the correct alternative is “based on.”

If we break down the phrases “based off of” and “based on,” you’ll start to see why it makes more sense to simply say “based on.” 

It all comes down to the prepositions “on” and “off.” “On” is a preposition that has a few different meanings. In this context, when we use the word “on” after the verb “based,” the preposition refers to the origin of something (source).

Comparatively, we can use the word “off” as a preposition in the phrase “based off” or as an adverb in the phrase “based off of.” As a preposition in the phrase “based off,” “off” means to depart from or to separate from something (source).

In the phrase “based off of,” “off” serves as an adverb, and “of” serves as the preposition. When we use “off” as an adverb in connection with the verb “base,” it means away from or deviating from (source).

Most people use the phrase “based off of” to refer to the origin of something, even though “based on” is the better option for conveying this information. Essentially, people have started using the phrase “based off of” to mean “based on.” 

Since we use the phrase “based off of” to discuss a topic or subject based on another topic or subject, it does not make grammatical sense to use the word “off.”

In What Context Can You Use “Based off Of”?

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If you do decide to use the phrase “based off of,” you should use it in informal, speaking contexts. 

Most people have widely accepted the use of this phrase in casual contexts. As “based off of” has gained popularity, many people assume it is correct simply because of the frequency that they hear others use it. 

However, a phrase is not inherently correct just because many people use it. Instead, it is best to use the phrase “based off of” when you are with family and friends in an informal situation.

When Can You Use “Based off Of”?

You can use “based off of” to describe the origin of something in the past, present, or future in casual settings. 

The phrase “based off of” will remain unchanged when you alter the verb tense. Let’s check out a few examples:

  1. The city design was based off of ancient Rome.
  2. The new Marvel movie is based off of a book.
  3. My birthday party will be based off of a Hollywood theme. 

Here, you can see that we simply change the verb tense to discuss the origin of the city design, the movie, and the birthday day. 

By altering the verb tense, you can use “based off of” to speak in the past, present, or future tense.

How Do You Use “Based off Of”?

When you use “based off of” in a sentence, you must include a subject and clearly indicate the origin or basis of that subject. 

Let’s take a quick look at the following sentence:

  • The paleo diet is based off of the eating habits of ancient human beings. 

In this sentence, our subject is “The paleo diet.” We follow the subject with the verb “is” and the phrase “based off of.” 

In the final part of the sentence, “the eating habits of ancient human beings,” we clearly indicate the subject’s origin.

Thus, when using the phrase “based off of,” you need to include a subject and a description of the subject’s basis. Without both aspects, the sentence will not be complete. 

Using “Based off of” in a Full Sentence

To use “based off of” in a full sentence, you will need to include the primary topic, a verb, and a description of the origin or basis of your main topic. 

We’ve broken down a few sample sentences to illustrate this pattern:

Sample SentencePrimary TopicOriginated from or was influenced bySecondary Topic
My values are based off of my sense of morality. My valuesare based off ofmy sense of morality
The accusation was based off of hard evidence. The accusation was based off ofthe hard evidence
She made her decision based off of her emotions.Her decisionwas made based off ofher emotions
The book Of Mice and Men is based off of the author’s lived experiences. The book Of Mice and Menis based off ofthe author’s lived experiences
Modern yoga is based off of ancient eastern tradition.Modern yogais based off ofancient eastern tradition

When you use the phrase “based off of,” your reader or listener expects you to discuss your subject’s origins or primary topic. Another way to view this is that you are talking about what influenced the subject or primary topic in question.

When Not to Use “Based off Of”

You’ll want to avoid using “based off of” in formal situations or when you are around people who may correct your grammar.

For instance, if you are speaking in a formal setting, such as during a presentation at work, you will want to avoid using the phrase “based off of.” On top of that, we advise that you avoid using this phrase in writing as well.

We traditionally consider writing a more formal context since it is more permanent and visible. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to publish writing that is not grammatically sound. 

Even though plenty of people say “based off of,” there is still the chance that someone might correct your grammar if you use this phrase. While a quick grammar correction is not a big deal in informal contexts, it can be embarrassing in formal contexts.

Therefore, to avoid someone correcting you, don’t use the phrase “based off of” in formal contexts. This applies to speaking and writing.

What Can You Use Instead of “Based off Of”?

While “based on” is the most straightforward alternative phrase to “based off of,” you can also use “comes from” or “originated from.”

Here are a few sample sentences:

My chicken noodle soup recipe is based off of my grandma’s recipe.My chicken noodle soup recipe is based on my grandma’s.
The Sherlock Holmes TV show is based off of a book series. The Sherlock Holmes TV show comes from a book series. 
The design of those houses was based off of German architecture. The design of those houses originated from German architecture. 
Our arguments are based off of factual evidence.Our arguments are based on factual evidence.

In all of these examples, we have two topics or subjects, and we use “based on,” “comes from,” or “originated from” to explain how one of the topics or subjects influenced the other.

Participial Adjectives

Participial adjectives are adjectives that we form from verbs. We can use participle adjectives to add complexity and meaning to our sentences.

A participle is a word that we form from a verb to modify a noun or verb. Typically, participles end in -ed or -ing. When we use a participle to modify a noun, we call it a participial adjective.

Take a look at these examples to see how a participial adjective functions in a sentence:

  1. Mara answered the ringing phone.
  2. The father soothed the crying child. 
  3. We love to season our food with crushed red pepper.
  4. The yowling cat disturbed the neighbors. 
  5. Aidan stirred the boiled potatoes. 
  6. He fell asleep during the boring presentation.

We bolded the participial adjectives in each of the examples above. Each of these bolded words modifies a noun and functions as an adjective. However, it is important to remember that we form participial adjectives from verbs.

Here is a list of the verbs that we used to construct these participial adjectives: “ring,” “cry,” “crush,” “yowl,” “boil,” and “bore.” 

In the phrase “based off of,” the word “based” functions as a participial adjective formed from the verb “base.” Usually, we use a “be verb” in conjunction with the phrase “based off of.” Be verbs are “am,” “are,” “is,” “was,” “were,” “been,” and “being” (source).

We often say that a topic is or was “based off of” something else. Even though “based” is a verb, we use it as an adjective when talking about how a subject or topic is “based off of” another subject or topic.

When we state what the origin or influence was, we often use an adjective complement.

Adjective Complements

Adjective complements are phrases or clauses that modify the meaning of an adjective (source). Prepositional phrases are a common type of adjective complement.

Let’s use this example sentence to breakdown adjective complements: 

  1. The students’ final grades were based off of their five exam scores. 

The subject of this sentence is “The students’ final grades,” and the verb is “were.” Then, we have the word “based,” which serves as a participial adjective in this sentence.

After the word “based,” we have the adverb “off.” Finally, we have a prepositional phrase that begins with “of”: “of their five exam scores.” In this case, the entire prepositional phrase is the adjective complement of the sentence.

The prepositional phrase “of their five exam scores” modifies, or further clarifies, the adjective “based.” With the addition of the prepositional phrase, we now know what the subject, “The students’ final grades,” was based on. This article was written for

In sentences with the phrase “based off of” or “based on,” we need to include an adjective complement to explain what the original topic or subject was actually based on. Without the adjective complement, the sentence would be incomplete and illogical. 

Final Thoughts 

With easy access to social media and online content, we have so much exposure to the language of others. Over the last 40 years, the phrase “based off of” has spread like wildfire. When people hear or see others use this phrase, they are more likely to use it themselves.

Regardless, “based off of” is an incorrect alternative to “based on.” Instead, you’ll want to use “based on” to stay grammatically correct, especially in formal contexts.

All languages change with time, but we have grammatical rules to set standards for particular contexts. These standards allow us to have a common understanding and, ultimately, communicate clearly and logically.

This is why we need to follow grammatical standards in formal contexts carefully. However, strict grammar is usually not as important when it comes to hanging out with your friends and family.