I am not a native speaker and am wondering what the difference is, if any, between "from" and "by" in the context of a letter, as set out below.

I think that a letter "from" may indicate the letter comes from a certain place, e.g. "A letter from Spain".

A letter can also come from someone. A letter can also be by someone, correct?

Thus, which one (or both) of the below would be correct?

  • A letter from Patrick; or
  • A letter by Patrick?
  • 3
    We usually use from with things that we receive - if you say I got a letter from Patrick, we understand that Patrick wrote the letter as well as sending it. In other situations we use by to identify the person who created something. The something could be a letter - e.g. we know from a letter written by Mozart's mother that... If you use by on its own it suggests you are talking about a work of art - a painting by Caravaggio, a novel by Dostoyevsky etc. For everyday things we usually include the verb - a letter written by Patrick, an apartment block built by XYZ etc.
    – Minty
    May 2, 2019 at 10:31
  • 2
    A letter from X is the normal expression. You might possibly use by if you were considering a letter as a work of literature, but not in everyday conversation.
    – Kate Bunting
    May 2, 2019 at 10:32

1 Answer 1


Usually a letter my be from: 1. a person; 2. a company, hospital, etc.; 3. a specific place (from London; Germany; etc.) and to 1. a person; 2. an isnstitution (financial, economic, etc.). I received a latter from the Pope. denotes that I was the addressee, whereas I received a letter by the Pope. suggests that I am not a person the Pope wrote to.

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