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I would like to know which preposition to use - by or from in the following sentence:

  • It was handed down to me from/by my dad.

Examples of both can be found on the free dictionary website, and I don't know if they are interchangeable or BE and AE difference. are there any subtle variations in usage.

After some research, I hypothesised that if 'to' is in the sentence, I also need 'from'. Otherwise, 'by' is used.

  • The guilty verdict was passed down by the jury.

Please give a detail answer that would explain the differences. Many thanks.

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"by" is the generic preposition when you use a verb in passive voice -- of the form "It was verb'ed by subject". In the case of the verb phrases "to hand down" and "to pass down", "from" typically fits as a better preposition, because "from" is expressing the transfer of the thing being passed/handed down.

You don't necessarily need "from" if "to" is in the sentence -- using "to" is to indicate who is receiving the thing being passed/handed down. For example these are all valid:

  • It was handed down to me from my dad. (more common)
  • It was handed down to me by my dad. (less common -- gramatically correct but it won't sound quite right)
  • The guilty verdict was passed down by the jury.
  • The guilty verdict was passed down to the court by the jury.
  • The guilty verdict was passed down to the court from the jury.

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