The Difference Between 'Of' and 'From'

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Many English learners have difficulties understanding the difference between the prepositions of and from in English. This comes from the fact that a number of languages, like Italian, French, and German, use the same preposition for both of and from. For example, in Italian, the phrase I am from Milan or I come from Milan can be translated as, Sono di Milano. The possessive use of 'of' in English can also use the preposition 'di' in Italian. For example, the phrase, He's a friend of ours can be translated into Italian as, E un amico di noi.

In other words, the preposition 'di' in Italian corresponds to the use of both from and of in English. This is true in many languages. In English, however, there is a distinct difference between of and from.

Using 'Of' in a Sentence

Of is mainly used as a possessive. For example:

  • He's a friend of mine.
  • The color of the house is red.

It is important to remember that it is more common to use the possessive 's' or the possessive adjective in English than to use 'of'—even if 'of' is grammatically correct. Thus, the sentences above would generally be in these forms:

  • He's my friend.
  • The house's color is red.

Common Phrases With 'Of'

Of is also commonly used with 'all' and 'both' to describe a common trait that many objects share. For example:

  • All of the students in the class enjoy volleyball.
  • Both of the assignments are due at the end of the week.

Common Phrases With 'Of'

Another common phrase with of is 'one of the + superlative form + plural noun + singular verb.' This phrase is commonly used to focus on a specific object that stands out from a group. Notice that although the plural noun is used, the singular phrase takes the singular conjugation of the verb because the subject is 'One of the....' For example:

  • One of the most interesting things about my job is the people I meet.
  • One of the most difficult subjects for me is math.

Using 'From' in a Sentence

From is generally used to express that something originates from something else, that something comes from somewhere, or some person. For example:

  • Jack comes from Portland.
  • This formula derives from the work of Peter Schimmel.
  • This pearl comes from the South Pacific.

Common Phrases With 'From'

From can also be used with the prepositions 'to' and 'until' to mark the beginning and ending point of time of an action or state. Generally, '' is used with past tenses, while 'from...until' is used when speaking about future actions. However, '' can be used in most situations. For example:

  • I played tennis from two to four in the afternoon yesterday.
  • We are meeting in Chicago from Monday until Thursday.

Understanding the difference between of and from can be tricky at first for ESL students, but like all commonly-confused words, the difference between them becomes more clear the more they are used.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "The Difference Between 'Of' and 'From'." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 26). The Difference Between 'Of' and 'From'. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "The Difference Between 'Of' and 'From'." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).