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Can I always use any of these phrases, or is there a difference ? For example:

  • I took it out of the box.
  • I took it from the box.
  • I took it out from the box.
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FOR THIS CONTEXT:

in and out -> location

to and from -> direction/movement

Compare:

The monster shredded his chest and took his heart out. (specifies the change in location of his heart)

The monster shredded his chest and took his heart from it (from the chest). (specifies the direction/movement how his heart's location changed)

The monster shredded his chest and took out his heart from it (from the chest). (both location change and indicated direction) -> NOTE: if this is to be constructed the way you did with your 3rd sentence, then it'd be, 'took his heart out from it (his chest)'

Additional Note: If something is taken away from you, then the direction of the change in location of that object is from you to the person who took it. If something was 'taken out' from you, you probably have undergone surgery (something's inside you, and 'twas taken outside(i.e., removed). e.g., appendectomy)

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  • take out refers to the object being previously inside of something
  • take from puts the emphasis on the source / place
  • take out from does both.

Depending in which aspect you want to emphasize, choose accordingly. Personally, I'd hesitate to use the last one, it sounds a bit cumbersome, but is not wrong.

For objects in a box, you can use whichever you like, this won't work for something on a shelf for obvious reasons.

  • I think that in case of a shelf the variants would be take off, take from, take off from. I can't say 'took out of the shelf'. Am I right ? – chumakoff Nov 13 '15 at 10:49
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    @chumakoff absolutely. Same principle, other preposition. Take off from sounds really akward, though. Just didn't want to leave unwitting users thinking that they can always say out. – Stephie Nov 13 '15 at 10:51
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The first sentence conveys that you did something so that the object is no longer in the box. That could be reaching inside and taking it out. It could also be lifting the box upside down and having it fall out. You may have it, or it may be on the ground next to you. Either way, the object is out of the box.

The second sentence conveys that you took it out the box and you have possession of it (unless you then say you put it elsewhere). In other words, the box had it, and now you have it, because you took it from it.

The third sentence basically conveys the same as the first, only a little more wordier. You are saying you took the object out. And where did you take it out of? From the box. It's an awkward p

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