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a one-off: meaning and explanation

If something is a one-off, then it happens once and is not repeated.

This is expression is often used when hoping that something bad will not happen again.

e.g. We had a power cut last night. Luckily we had loads of candles or it would have been a nightmare. Hopefully it was just a one-off.

One-off can be combined with a noun to mean that it will not happen repeatedly or regularly, e.g. a one-off event, a one-off trip, a one-off thing, etc.

e.g. Due to unexpectedly good results this financial year, all employees will receive a one-off bonus at the end of the month.

A person can also be described as a one-off to say that they are unique (usually in a positive way).

e.g. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like him – he’s a real one-off.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Scotland

Leicester -. .
Leicester Premier League probably -. it .

About the sentence

…I can’t see it happening again…

The phrase I can’t see something happening/somebody doing something is a good way to say that you think something is very unlikely or impossible.

e.g. I like your idea, but I can’t see your mum agreeing to it.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America


Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Can you think of anything that happened to you which was hopefully just a one-off?
  • Do you know anyone who you would describe as a one-off?

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

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