subsist off

English translation: subsist on

08:47 Oct 26, 2005
English to English translations [PRO]
Social Sciences - Environment & Ecology
English term or phrase: subsist off
I came across this in my son's English book while checking his homework. Bear in mind that this is a Portuguese school book, written by Portuguese teachers of English for Portuguese kids learning English as a foreign language. The sentence reads as follows: "...currently some 1.3 billion people subsist off less than 1 dollar a day...". I would have said "subsist on", but you know what it's like - the more you turn it over it your mind the less sure you become... Would be grateful for some opinions before I complain to his teacher. (I have already come across a few other mistakes in the same book.)

Many thanks
Fiona.
Fiona Gonçalves
Portugal
Local time: 08:28
English translation:subsist on
Explanation:
I agree with you in that I would defintely regard subsist ON as normal or "correct" usage - in just the same way as you would talk of someone living ON xx dollars a day. To subsist off is clearly going to be understood but seems to me at best sloppy or unduly informal for a printed text - and at worst just plain wrong.
Selected response from:

Armorel Young
Local time: 10:28


Summary of answers provided
3 +15subsist on
Armorel Young
4 +1subsist off
Tony M
4to live on
Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com


Discussion entries: 4





  

Answers


4 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
to live on


Explanation:
>...

Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
France
Local time: 11:28
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 4
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6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +15
subsist on


Explanation:
I agree with you in that I would defintely regard subsist ON as normal or "correct" usage - in just the same way as you would talk of someone living ON xx dollars a day. To subsist off is clearly going to be understood but seems to me at best sloppy or unduly informal for a printed text - and at worst just plain wrong.

Armorel Young
Local time: 10:28
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: English

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jane Gabbutt: I agree it should be subsist on. See any of the online English dictionaries for confirmation e.g. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=subsist
6 mins

agree  Dave Calderhead: OED confirms
10 mins

agree  Konstantin Kisin: no question here. 100%
13 mins

agree  Jack Doughty: Google count 276000 for on, only 640 for off. Live off is OK in some contexts - an army living off the country, for example - but not here.
33 mins
  -> yes, "living off the land" is of course a perfectly standard expression - even maybe "living off one's parents", but with money it has to be "on"

agree  Sheila Hardie
58 mins

agree  Rachel Fell
2 hrs

agree  Alexander Demyanov
3 hrs

agree  Enza Longo
3 hrs

agree  Josephine79
3 hrs

agree  NancyLynn
4 hrs

agree  RHELLER: it can be understood but has no place in an educational text
5 hrs

agree  jccantrell: In the USA for sure. But you can 'live off the land' so maybe they just got confused.
5 hrs

agree  KNielsen: It sounds like the kind of thing an English speaker making a mistake would say in casual speech (well, I don't know how casual "subsist" is, but anyway...!)
17 hrs

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
1 day 7 hrs

agree  Jörgen Slet
1 day 19 hrs
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38 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
subsist off


Explanation:
I don't think it could be said to be 'wrong' as such, certainly not to the point of ticking off the teacher!

Although we are more used to hearing "subsist on £1 a week" (analogy with survive on.. or live on...), don't forget that we do also say "subsist off the land" for example --- just as we would say "live off the land" or "live off the fruits of someone else's labours" or "live off immoral earnings".

I'm not sufficient of an expert to know if "subsist off..." can ONLY be used in this special context, but I've certainly come across it, and your "subsist off..." certainly didn't grate with me at first reading.

Looking at it etymologically, one might (rather tenuously!) feel that the prefix sub- in itself hardly warrants the preposition 'on'.


Tony M
France
Local time: 11:28
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Rachel Fell: I'd say only on and that it's sloppily written!;) I'd also say the sub- part of the word ONLY relates to the -sist part;)
2 hrs
  -> Thanks, Rachel! I agree that my etymological idea is pretty far-fetched ;-)

neutral  Oliver Walter: (Google) search "subsist +off": 646 hits; "subsist +on": 275000 hits. Conclusion: "on" is correct, but "off" is possible.
2 days 1 hr
  -> Thanks, Oliver! Fair enough, though in the negative sense, I never take Google as gospel --- there've been many terms that I know for a fact from personal experience are commonly used, yet for some reasons they haven't made it onto the Internet yet...

agree  Jane Lamb-Ruiz: subsist off is fine..it works with logic of English...off is fine
2 days 10 hrs
  -> Thanks, Jane! I'm glad I'm not alone out here... :-)
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