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The context is soccer (association football) and the sentence in question is:

The forward received the ball from the midfielder's pass.

I have already ask about this here and received alot of good answers, and I tried to leave it at that. But then the World Cup 2014 is upon us, and I am starting to have doubts about this football usage of "from", to the point that I have semi-nightmares about it.

The use of "from" in the football example continues to bother me. I seem to disagree (subconsciously) about how a ball (physical object) could be "from" a pass (action) unless that action creates that object.

Some people were hit by debris from the explosion.

The use of "from" in "debris from the explosion" makes excellent sense to me, because the explosion does create the debris. But in soccer/football, the ball cannot possibly be "created" by a pass.

Is there any non-football usage of "from" similar to my football example sentence?

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  • 1
    Hmm... What do you think about, "I received a book from Dave."? Obviously, Dave didn't create the book he gave. Jun 17 '14 at 3:13
  • @DamkerngT. In "a book from Dave", Dave (a person) has possession of the book. In "a ball from a pass", could I say that the pass (an action) has possession of the ball?
    – meatie
    Jun 17 '14 at 3:34
  • Let's refine the sense of from by elimination. What do you think of a man from X, e.g. a man from Mars, a man from Seattle. Obviously, the place (X) didn't really create him nor it does possess him. Jun 17 '14 at 3:46
  • @DamkerngT. a "man from Mars/Seattle" is definitely good, because the man was originally physically located in Mars/Seattle. So, the man moved "from" one place to another.
    – meatie
    Jun 17 '14 at 4:00
  • I agree that it's awkward. I think the problem lies with the verb “receive” which leaves the listener expecting “the midfielder” as the giving party. Incidentally, “a lot” is always two words. Jun 17 '14 at 14:53
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I think it's cool that you're losing sleep over this. :^)

I'd also suggest carefully studying a dictionary's definition of from to try and fully grasp how versatile this word is.

The one definition I like best is:

from (prep.) Used to indicate a source, cause, agent, or instrument

You said:

I seem to disagree (subconsciously) about how a ball (physical object) could be "from" a pass (action) unless that action creates that object. In soccer/football, the ball cannot possibly be "created" by a pass.

I think your problem might be that you are trying to summarize "source, cause, agent, or instrument" into one single verb: create.

Instead, "source, cause, agent, or instrument" could mean create, cause, originate from or even facilitate.

Think of it this way: Would the forward have gotten the ball were it not for the midfielder's pass? The ball had to come from somewhere; it didn't just materialize out of thin air.

The forward received the ball from the midfielder's pass.

Here's another way to look at it: It's not the ball that was created, but the forward's scoring opportunity.

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  • I was thinking along the lines that English does not have a unique instrumental case marker, but I am not sure if this has anything to do with the construction in question jarring one's language expectations or sensibilities.
    – user6951
    Jun 17 '14 at 10:46
  • Would "the forward received the ball coming through the midfielder's pass" be better?
    – meatie
    Jul 1 '14 at 1:00
  • @meatie - personally, I don't like through in that context. If you don't like from, you could use via, though that sounds a little formal.
    – J.R.
    Jul 1 '14 at 10:45
  • Does "from" have a "by means of" sense?
    – meatie
    Jul 1 '14 at 14:26
  • I think the definition I quoted in my answer – "Used to indicate a source or cause" – fits pretty close with "by means of". If you don't like that one, there's Definitions 6 and 6a at Macmillan, Webster's also mentions by reason of; by aid of. I think those are all pretty similar to "by means of."
    – J.R.
    Jul 1 '14 at 15:28
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Yes, one can construct/concoct a non-football usage of from similar to your football example sentence. Whether it satisfies one's expectancy of a perfect utterance is left open. (I myself would also not look to a Wikipedia article for good language usage.)

We can move to baseball, where an analogous sentence can be made:

Here is the situation: the batter makes a safe hit to the outfield; the outfielder fields the ball and throws the ball to the second baseman; the second baseman spins and throws the ball to the catcher.

The catcher received the ball from the second baseman's relay.

The commentator says: "Wow! The second baseman made a great relay home." Relay is used as a noun, as a shortened form of relay throw.

Frankly, as I reread my own sentence, I am not satisfied that I would not get up from my own nightmare and rewrite it as:

The catcher received the ball from the second baseman's hand.

In this context, relay is an action and hand is not. Yet both are nouns. I can almost guarantee you that in spoken speech, the second sentence would never be uttered by a baseball announcer.

Yet I know what the first utterance means in all its imperfect glory, and it communicates to me what has happened, which is the function of language.

Besides, if this were an utterance made by a baseball announcer, I would not flinch, because I know that all sorts of things come out of their mouths when they are giving their play-by-play: "He slides into second with a stand up double."

From American football:

The wide receiver received the injury from the linebacker's tackle.

The wide receiver received the injury from the linebacker.

In this case, the first of the pair does not sound too bad. Maybe this is because the tackle "created" the injury?


There could be examples not from the world of sports:

The woman received the refund from the banker's error.

The woman received the baby from the banker's arms. This one is quite different, and I suspects it satisfies you—even though the banker (or his arms) did not create the baby.

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  • Would "the forward received the ball coming through the midfielder's pass" be better?
    – meatie
    Jul 1 '14 at 1:13
  • Well, @meatie you are the one who does not like from. By contrast, I do not like coming through at all. For one thing, it seems too long to describe such a simple action. If you want something that is also long, but a lot better sounding, then I would suggest by means of. You could also say via, but that's not a word I've heard many broadcasters of any sport say. Having returned to this question after a time away, I really don't have much a problem with the original utterance. English as spoken is not an exact science.
    – user6951
    Jul 3 '14 at 0:04
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He got his spikes from the store.

I agree though that this is slightly awkward and I would have said simply

The forward received the ball from the midfielder.

I think the issue is not of where the ball was created, but that he received the ball from the midfielder by means of the pass. This is really just me being obsessive and the way it's written is absolutely normal.

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  • So, "a ball from a pass" is indeed poor English?
    – meatie
    Jun 17 '14 at 3:36
  • It sounds awkward to me, but then again I am obsessively rigourous about language and I'm an American talking about football. I doubt most people would question it. As to whether it is formally correct I'm not sure, though it's rather a moot point as it's mostly a question of semantics and we're talking about football Jun 17 '14 at 3:49
  • meatie: "a ball from a pass" is not even a complete sentence, so there's no way to tell if it's poor English. It really depends on what the person is trying to communicate and emphasize. What works well for an instructional video may not work well for a news article, and vice-versa. If a play was set up by a beautiful pass, perhaps the writer wants to emphasize the pass. But one could say any of these: (a) "received the ball from the midfielder" (b) "received the pass from the midfielder (c) "received the ball from the midfielder's pass" (d) "received the midfielder's pass".
    – J.R.
    Jun 17 '14 at 12:32

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