Which is the correct usage here?

Shaken by the experience, Tom decided to go home.


Shaken from the experience, Tom decided to go home.

What rule do we use to know which preposition to use?


There is no rule.

There are sometimes partial rules; but mostly it is a matter of learning what preposition a particular verb, adjective, or noun takes for its indirect objects. That needs to be learnt just as much as the spelling.

In this case, the iWeb corpus has 82 instances of "shaken by the experience" and 7 of "shaken from the experience". So both are used, but "by" is much more common.

  • The best you could do is invest in a good digital dictionary and make it your BFF. They usually list the preferred prepositions in various situations. The preferences of British and Americans are often different. As a native speaker, I still need mine to look up that quite often. As Colin said, there are no rules. – Ross Murray Dec 10 '18 at 1:30
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    I'm not sure these are perfect synonyms. To me, "by" feels like it's emphasizing the role of the experience, and "from" makes the experience more distant. Not sure that raw counting will help in that case, and the difference may be too subtle for a dictionary... – Paul Dec 10 '18 at 3:09
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    @Paul: I agree, and started writing a message to that effect, but I could not get a clear enough hold on the difference, and gave up. I actually think that "by" is a complement of "shaken", but "from" is an adjunct (syntactically less tightly bound). – Colin Fine Dec 10 '18 at 10:33
  • @Colin FineCould you send me the iWeb corpus link? – 我的不好 Dec 26 '20 at 12:12
  • iWeb, and sixteen other English corpora, are available at english-corpora.org. It is free to use, though if you use it much without a paid account, it starts badgering you. – Colin Fine Dec 26 '20 at 14:04

by = through/by the means of. from = starting point. Therefore shaken by gives an immediate result - the experience shook him; giving an immediate reaction to go home. shaken from would continue with a resolution which would have a more permanent action - shaken from the experience I would no longer enter that room!

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