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(1) Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. (Wikipedia)

(2) Tables were made of marble or wood and metal (typically bronze or silver alloys), sometimes with richly ornate legs. (Wikipedia)

Why is 'from' used in (1), whereas 'of' is used in (2)?

Is it a stylistic choice whether to use 'of' or 'from'? Or, in case of chemical changing, differently from changing in shape only, 'from' is preferable?

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I agree with both existing answers (by FumbleFingers and Baz). But I think perhaps I can put the difference in my own words and illustrate it with some examples, so I'm going to post an answer anyway.

I think made of expresses composition, while made from expresses transformation. In many cases, the two express something roughly equivalent:

 1. This book is made of paper. (Paper is the material or substance the book is composed of.)
 2. This book is made from paper. (Someone took paper and turned it into a book.)

In this case, paper can be interpreted as a constituent material or a source material, so either preposition works. I believe this is true in many cases. In your table example, for instance, wood can be interpreted either way, so either preposition works.

But in other cases, only one or the other is appropriate:

 3. *This wine is made of grapes. (Grapes are the material or substance the wine is composed of.)
 4. This wine is made from grapes. (Someone took grapes and turned them into wine.)

I don't think example 3 works. I think that in wine form, the grapes have been consumed and are no longer grapes. As a result, there's no compositional relationship between grapes and wine to be expressed. We can express a transformational relationship, though: the grapes became wine.

The following idiom only works with the compositional sense:

 5. Let's see what you're made of. (Idiom: let's see what substance you're figuratively composed of.)
 6. #Let's see what you're made from. (Let's see what substance was transformed into you.)

I marked example 6 with a # to indicate that it fails to convey the same thing that example 5 conveys, but the sentence would be appropriate in other circumstances--for example, if you were talking to a robot before taking them apart to see what materials they were made from.

I'll present just one more example. The following is taken from COCA:

 7. The sample population was made of all 55 female teachers at the two TQA pilot schools in Jerash, Jordan.
 8. *The sample population was made from all 55 female teachers at the two TQA pilot schools in Jerash, Jordan.

In example 7, made of clearly indicates composition, not transformation. And when I replace it with made from in example 8, it no longer makes any sense; the teachers didn't undergo a transformation.

Hopefully these examples give you a good sense of the difference between the two.

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  • This is a great answer, and I've given it a +1 :) In your example #7, though, I have to say that made of sounds odd to me; I'd have said made up of. I agree that both mean composed of, but made of just sounds wrong to me here. Maybe because in the population, all of the teachers are still separate and teachers, despite being part of the population, while when the book is made of paper, the paper is now only part of the book? (I don't know if that made any sense. But as usual, your answers make me think!) – WendiKidd Oct 11 '13 at 21:39
  • The point you make regarding your example 3 may not consider that wine can also be made of rice and other fruit, not just grapes. – GreaseMonkey Oct 11 '13 at 23:44
  • @GreaseMonkey It doesn't need to. The wine in my example is made from grapes :-) (The sentence says so!) – snailplane Oct 11 '13 at 23:49
  • Playing obtuse? This wine is made of rice. This wine is made of peaches. This wine is made of pears. While "from" is definitely the better choice, it doesn't make using "of" incorrect. – GreaseMonkey Oct 11 '13 at 23:58
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    @GreaseMonkey Oh, no. I didn't catch the point you made in passing (of versus from), only your irrelevant main point (it's possible to talk about other materials). In COCA I see 17 examples of wine made from and only 1 of wine made of; this last occurs in wine made of Chardonnay, which isn't a counterexample. Likewise BNC, which gives 4 and 0 results respectively. So far, published usage seems to back me up on this one. – snailplane Oct 12 '13 at 0:03
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Because grapes are no longer grapes when they become wine. The table is still made of wood.

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  • Baz, thank you! As far as I can tell the chemical changing plays an important role in that choice; are you a native speaker? – user2903 Oct 11 '13 at 18:42
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    @Whiskey It's not a standard expression, but it's a good metaphor! – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Oct 11 '13 at 19:27
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    @Whiskey: I'd say it's not so much the chemical nature of the transformation that makes "made of" inappropriate, but rather its irreversibility. Your wooden table still contains wood, and if you need the wood for building something else, you can break up the table to get it. But, no matter how hard you try, you cannot pull even a single whole grape out of a glass of wine. – Ilmari Karonen Oct 12 '13 at 14:16
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    @Whiskey It was grapes, it became wine. It's that simple. I don't see the point of over complicating my answer by discussing chemicals. The chemicals in grapes are the same as those in wine, there is no chemical change. However you would never call grapes wine or vice versa. You can still point at a table and say: look, wood! – Baz Oct 12 '13 at 14:17
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    @Baz: Technically, there is a chemical transformation (fermentation) involved, but I agree that it's irrelevant; fresh grape juice isn't "made of grapes" either. (Although, at a stretch, I suppose one might argue that it's "made of grape", where "grape" is viewed as an uncountable substance. But that would be a very weird and unusual way of looking at it.) – Ilmari Karonen Oct 12 '13 at 14:21
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This issue has been raised on ELU. Mostly, it's a stylistic choice whether to use of or from.

In some contexts, X is made of Y more strongly implies that Y is the only constituent (there are no other ingredients). But this doesn't apply to either of OP's examples.

In other contexts (including OP's first example) from may be preferred when the focus is on "ingredients" used in some kind of transformational process (a recipe, for example).

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His watch is made of gold.

The precious metal used in making this watch wasn't silver or copper but gold.

I've got a beautiful dress made of pure silk

Silk was used to make the dress.

That table is made of solid oak wood

Only oak wood was used to make that table

The finished products are identifiable by their substances or materials; a gold watch, a silk dress and a wooden table.

Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan is made from cow's milk (plus whey and rennet)

However, when you see the finished product you don't identify it as being milk cheese but rather as being Parmesan cheese.

Talisker whisky is made from malted barley

Likewise although the main ingredients of a Scottish single malt whiskey are barley grain and spring water, one would never identify the finished product as being either barley whisky or water whisky.

Champagne [sparkling wine] is made from white Chardonnay grapes, red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Original text

The product undergoes a lengthy process and its main ingredients, the three different types of grapes, lose their original "identity" and become a different finished product. One would never call champagne a grape wine, not in front of a French man at least!

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  • I wrote this answer before seeing snailboat's post. In my opinion OP did well in accepting that answer. – Mari-Lou A Oct 11 '13 at 22:15
  • Mari-Lou, yes, as a learner I never saw such an answer and in fact until now it got four positive votes, which is rare on ELL. But, since you seem an expert of Italian food and parmesan, what is squacquerone made from? – user2903 Oct 11 '13 at 22:39
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    It's like stracchino, very runny, fresh soft cheese. You can literally spread the stuff on bread. It's OK, nothing to really write home about :) Made from milk, I'm pretty sure it's cow's milk too. Pecorino is made from sheep/ewe's milk – Mari-Lou A Oct 11 '13 at 22:48
  • Mari-Lou, thank you, but if the sheeps that produce milk are surely female, why do you call that cheese pecorino and not pecorina? I heard that all nouns in Italian have a gender, even if I don't understand how gender works in your language. – user2903 Oct 12 '13 at 17:35
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    cheese is masculine, il formaggio, and so it's formaggio (di) pecorino (sheep's cheese) The female sheep is indeed called pecora, whilst the male is an ariete. – Mari-Lou A Oct 12 '13 at 17:46

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