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I always thought that the difference between "of" and "from" was very clear to me generally speaking, but after discussing with an English learning friend I realized that my understanding may be incomplete.

I was asked to explain the difference between the two following expressions

  1. the reviews of your clients
  2. the reviews from your clients

A review consists in giving one's opinion/criticism to somebody else, whether it is written or oral. My take is that Option 2 is more correct, as it expresses "the reviews you received, whose origins are your clients".
On the other side, Option 1 is less coherent as a review is not a possession of the clients anymore, it is an opinion they gave to somebody/something else.

An alternative to Option 1 would be "the opinions of your clients", in which case the possession expressed by "of" would make more sense whereas "the opinions from your clients" would be weird.

The above is just my understanding, and it may be wrong, incomplete or not accurate enough. I would appreciate any other attempt at explaining the nuances between both expressions, as well as advices in order to understand which one to choose in similar sentences.

  • Does this answer your question? "of" vs " from" – Jason Bassford May 17 '20 at 3:00
  • The first is reviews about your clients, and second is reviews by your clients. – Jason Bassford May 17 '20 at 3:02
  • @JasonBassford Couldn't the first sentence also refer to possession, as in "your clients' reviews"? That's what pops into my mind, at least, when I read it. I can't really imagine business owners reviewing clients, but I can definitely imagine the other way around. – Kman3 May 17 '20 at 3:58
  • @Kman3 Given that I'm being asked to distinguish between the two different prepositions, I would say that possession is more strongly implied with from (the reviews made by your clients.) To me, of is what somebody else says about your clients: your clients are a good bunch, I wish they were mine.) If this wasn't a question of contrasting one preposition with the other, then of certainly can mean possession. But from is the better preposition for that sense. – Jason Bassford May 17 '20 at 4:20
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    Thank you all for your comments, I apologize for not replying earlier. I learned a lot from the discussion there. – Suzet May 27 '20 at 22:14
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This is a good example of how English must be confounding to learners. There are all sorts of grey areas which arise from the use of words like 'of' that are only settled by context.

As @JasonBassford pointed out:

The reviews of your clients

can mean either 'the reviews that were made about your clients' or 'the reviews that your clients made about you. Only context can entirely remove the ambiguity. On a first reading I assumed the second meaning, simply because I made a mental guess that if the first meaning were desired, the author would have used a less ambiguous choice of words. But I suspect Jason Bassford made the opposite guess. Which just goes to show, you really can't tell. English speakers often have to make guesses based on the most likely meaning of sentences given context.

The reviews from your clients

can only mean 'the reviews which came from your clients/the reviews that your clients gave'. It's still ambiguous as to what the reviews were about, but the natural assumption is that the clients were reviewing the implied service provider the sentence is addressed to.

Someone more knowledgeable than me could probably explain why there are multiple places where from and of seem to overlap. Here 'of' is used in its possessive sense, but there are other occassions where from/of can be interchanged.

Cause:

She died of a heart attack.

She died from a heart attack.

Material

He made the table of wood.

He made the table from wood.

Place

We live within two miles of the school.

We live less than two miles from the school.

Even places of origin (archaically), which is the classic sense where 'from' is used in English where other languages would use 'of' (de, di, ...).

John from Gaunt

John of Gaunt

The one sense in which from/of are not interchangeable in at least some contexts is probably the possessive sense of 'of'. And in a modern sense, using 'of' to indicate a place of origin also does not work. So 'John of Gaunt' works for a medieval noble, but 'Phil of Slough' would be bizarre.

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    Thanks a lot for this kind and detailed answer, I do appreciate it. It is quite clarifying. My own mother tongue is French, an article heavy language too so this kind of ambiguity is not dramatic for me ; I can have some intuition. My acquaintance however who asked me the question has Japanese as a native language, that is article free. It is then much more difficult for them to develop a good understanding of the use of said articles. Your answer helped them =) – Suzet May 27 '20 at 22:18

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