Which of the three prepositions in the squared brackets in the sentence

In an old notebook, I found some notes [from|by|of] John

are correct, if the notes

  • were written by John
  • aren't about John
  • aren't addressed to the speaker

i.e., if the only implication of the preposition should be, that John was the author of the notes?

  • What is the context? Typically one would say "John's notes", but the first example would be good in "I have received some some notes from John". Nov 22, 2021 at 10:54
  • Would from be correct in this context, even if I hadn't received these notes from John? Nov 22, 2021 at 11:12
  • 2
    I found some notes written by John, or I found John's notes. Nov 22, 2021 at 11:27
  • 1
    1) If you add clarifying information, please edit the original question, so that future answerers can find it there rather than in the comments. 2) It's been implied but not yet spelled out: "notes of John" would not be a standard usage. ("Notes of John's," possessive, would.) Nov 22, 2021 at 17:58
  • 1
    Also, "notes from John" would be good grammar, but would imply that the notes were "to" someone, which is probably not your intent
    – gotube
    Nov 23, 2021 at 7:48

1 Answer 1


Now the OP has clarified that these are notes written by John I convert here my earlier comment into an answer.

You can certainly say a symphony by Mozart, a novel by Dickens, a sculpture by Hepworth, a goal by Pele. Notes by John is OK.

However I must say that notes are usually quite unimportant documents and it seems rather pretentious to want to specify who wrote them in the same way as we do for more substantial works. It would seem even stranger to say a shopping list by John for instance. Perhaps for this reason notes by John although perfectly grammatical sounds slightly odd, at least to my ears.

  • 1
    I completely agree: "notes by John" seems right, but sounds wrong. That's a tricky one, isn't it? Nov 23, 2021 at 10:05

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