Learn Prepositions BY, FROM & OF + Take the TEST!

Lesson Overview

3 essential English Prepositions – preposition BY, preposition OF and preposition FROM which we use to talk about time, place, movement and distance.

Let’s review WHEN to use them and HOW to use each of these prepositions correctly. Watch through to the end to take the short prepositions test to test what you know and make sure you are using these prepositions correctly in English sentences.

Question: Is the meaning of these sentences the same?
➡️ A book by James Clear.
➡️ A book from James Clear.
➡️ A book of James Clear’s.

What’s the difference? Let’s find out!


Video Transcript

Hey there, I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!

Today we’re going to learn about three important prepositions in English grammar. You’ll learn the difference between the preposition “by,” the preposition “from,” and the preposition “of.”

And in English, they can be prepositions of time, they can be prepositions of place, of movement, but actually several languages have only one word for all three of these prepositions.

So it’s really easy to see how “by,” “from,” and “of” can be a little confusing when you try to use them in English. But not anymore! I’ll show you when to use them and how to use each of these prepositions. Plus, there’s a quiz at the end of this lesson to test what you know and make sure you’re using these prepositions correctly in your English sentences.

Excuse my casual attire today, it is extremely hot. Thirty-eight degrees. Not ideal for filming but let’s give it a shot anyway.

Which of these prepositions is the most difficult for you to use? Let me know down in the comments.

Let’s start today’s lesson by reviewing each of these prepositions individually. After that, we’ll take a look at some of the cases where all three of these prepositions are possible but the meaning or the way that it’s used is slightly different.

Preposition OF

There are lots of different ways to use the preposition “of” in English.

Today, we’re going to look at the top four most common uses, starting with possession and belonging. So, we use “of” to show a relationship of possession or belonging between two nouns.

  • Members of the club get free parking.
  • Charles became the King of England.

And this is similar to the way that we use apostrophe S or the possessive S in English.

  • My friend’s mother is Indonesian.

So the apostrophe S shows that the mother belongs to the friend. We can use “of” to recreate this same sentence but keep the exact same meaning.

  • The mother of my friend is Indonesian.

So in this version, “of” indicates the relationship between the friend and the mother. This construction with “of” is very common in languages like German but in English, it is much more common to use that possessive apostrophe S when we’re talking about people and use “of” when we’re talking about things.

  • Sarah’s house is down the road.

Rather than:

  • The house of Sarah is down the road.
  • The colour of her hair was amazing.

Rather than:

  • Her hair’s colour was amazing.

We use “of” in quantifying expressions that describe a unit or an amount or a number of something. This is really common with uncountable nouns. When we need a way of measuring or counting an uncountable noun, we’ll say something like:

  • A cup of flour.
  • A grain of sand.
  • A drop of rain.
  • Thirty per cent of the population.

All of these nouns are uncountable so to describe how much there is, we need one of those quantifying expressions.

  • A cup of
  • A grain of
  • A drop of
  • Thirty per cent of

And we use “of” to explain the amount of countable nouns as well.

  • There were hundreds of people at the airport.
  • There are millions of stars in the Milky Way.

We can use “of” to describe the contents of something. What’s inside a box or a packet or a container of something.

  • A bag of chips.
  • A bottle of water.
  • A book of poetry.
  • A box of clothes.

And finally, for the fourth most common way of using “of,” we use “of” in expressions to show the exact position of something.

  • The top of your head.
  • The back of the bus.
  • The side of the house.
  • The corner of the street.
  • The front of the queue.

I know how much prepositions frustrate you, especially when you’re trying to move from B1 into B2 or C1 levels and yet you’re still making mistakes with these little words. I’ve designed my Preposition 8×8 Course as a step-by-step guide for intermediate to advanced English learners to go beyond the basics and learn eight different ways to use eight prepositions in everyday spoken English.

In the course, you’ll learn advanced word patterns that will take your skills to the next level. Plus, every lesson includes an interactive speaking practice with me. So you’ll not only study and learn about prepositions, you’ll also practise and use them naturally in your spoken English.

And guess what? I’ve got a free lesson from that course that you can try out for yourself. All of the details are down in the description but I’ll also remind you about it at the end of this lesson so you can go and check it out then.

Preposition FROM

“From” can be a preposition of time or of place. As a preposition of place, it describes the place where something starts so it links a noun, a person or a thing, to its origin or its starting place.

  • He sent me a postcard from Spain.
  • My friend went to Spain and sent me a postcard.

The postcard started in Spain before it travelled to me here in Perth.

  • That hot wind is coming from the north.

So the wind originated in the north. That’s where it started and that’s why it’s so hot today.

  • The bread is from the bakery on High Street.

As a preposition of time, “from” shows the time when something starts.

  • The shop is open from 9 am.

The opening hours start from 9, not before. They start at 9.

  • The rules will come into place from tomorrow.

So the rules start tomorrow, not before.

  • The sculpture dates from the 17th century.

The sculpture was made in the 17th century and that’s when it started to exist.

And finally, “from” is a preposition of distance in both time and space.

  • The beach is five kilometres from here.
  • The airport is seven kilometres from the city.

So “from” indicates the distance between these two places. But we can also express distance in time.

  • I’ll set an alarm for five hours from now.

So five hours into the future. Five hours after or later than now.

Preposition BY

And that brings us to “by.” “By” is another really versatile preposition. It can be used in lots of different ways but the main way that we use the preposition “by” is to indicate the person or the thing that completes an action. So you could say that it introduces the doer of an action.

  • A book by a famous author.

Who wrote the book? A famous author.

  • A painting by Picasso.

Picasso is the doer. He painted the picture.

We use “by” like this quite a lot in passive sentences. So when you want to introduce the doer of an action in a passive sentence, use “by.”

  • The car was driven by a woman with blue hair.
  • I was shocked by what I saw on the news.

“By” can also describe a method. It can indicate how something is done.

  • The ring was made by hand.
  • We travelled by train.
  • She improved her English by reading the newspaper.

So in all of these examples, “by” describes a method of completing an action.

How did we travel? By train. How did she improve her English? By reading the newspaper.

When “by” is a preposition of place, it means near or to the side of something. She lives by a park means she lives near or next to a park.

  • Frankie is always by my side.

Frankie stays close. She stays next to me. When “by” is a preposition of time, it means not later than. So at or before. Imaginary watch.

  • They’re usually home by nine.

They get home at nine or maybe sometimes before nine but not after nine.

I’ve got another lesson that dives into the difference between “by” and “until.” It’s right up here and it’s quite useful when we’re talking about using “by” related to time.

And finally, we can use “by” to indicate measurements and amounts.

  • The room is three metres by four.
  • Sea levels rose by twenty centimetres.
  • They sell oil by the barrel.

When to use BY from OF

Now, if only it was that simple. But English prepositions are tricky little things. So let’s go a little bit deeper into those moments where you need to choose between “by,” “from,” and “of.”

  • A book by James Clear.

… Is a book written by James Clear. He wrote this book. It’s a book by him. But:

  • A book from James Clear.

… Is a book that James Clear gave me, right?

So in this case, he is the starting point of the book. It’s where it came from.

But

  • A book of James Clear’s.

… Is a book that belongs to James Clear. Maybe he lent it to me because he wanted me to read it. A book of James Clear’s is a book that belongs to him.

And a little earlier, we heard the example of a book of poetry, meaning that this book is a collection of poetry or it contains poetry.

Do you see how changing something as small and insignificant as a little preposition can actually completely change the meaning of a sentence? It’s crazy, huh?

Made FROM

And when it comes to the verb “made,” things get a little more complicated. When we say “made from,” we mean that it has been used to manufacture or to create something else. It describes that there’s been a transformation during the process of making that object. It’s changed from one thing into something else.

  • Linen is made from flax.
  • Paper is made from wood pulp.

In both these examples, the verb “made” can be substituted for the verb “manufactured.”

Made OF

When we say “made of,” we mean composed of. So it describes the basic material of something, something that you can still see or touch, it still exists in its original form.

  • Her dress is made of silk.
  • The table is made of wood.

So in these examples, “made” can be substituted for “composed.”

Made BY

And then of course, there’s “made by.” So “by” can describe either how something was made or who made it.

  • The dress was made by my friend.
  • The dress was made by hand.

Talking about changes in amount

And there’s one more area where I know some of you get a little bit lost and that’s talking about a change in number or amount. Let me show you what I mean.

  • There has been an increase of fifteen per cent over the last five years.
  • The price has increased by fifteen per cent over the last year.
  • The price has increased from $1 to $1.15.

These three sentences all convey the same information. They’re all saying pretty much the same thing.

So how do you know when to use “of,” “by,” or “from”? There’s a little trick to this that I want to share.

In this sentence, “increase” is a noun. An increase. So actually, this is a collocation where we use the noun “increase” with the preposition “of.”

So when “increase” is a noun, it’s followed by “of.” But here, “increase” is a verb. When “increase” is a verb, it collocates with “by.”

  • The price has increased by fifteen per cent.

And here, “from” indicates the starting point.

  • Prices started at one dollar and ended at one dollar fifteen.

So there’s a couple of rules here. When you’re talking about a change to an amount or number, then verbs like increase, rise, fall, decrease are used with the preposition “by.” And the nouns of these same verbs, an increase, a rise, a fall, a decrease, these all collocate with the preposition “of.”

Now these ones are all extra tricky because the noun and the verb forms are exactly the same. Thank you very much, English!

So just make sure you’re paying attention to the structure of the sentence. Look out for the article. That’s your clue that it’s a noun rather than a verb.

I’ll give you one more example.

  • Water levels fell by one metre.

We have our verb, “by,” and then the amount.

  • Experts noticed a fall of one metre in the water level.

Practice Quiz

Okay let’s test your skills with a quick prepositions quiz. Choose the correct preposition. Of, from, or by.

  1. The house is made of bricks.
  2. Plastic is made from oil.
  3. The number of visitors to the National Park has increased from 300 per week to 1500.
  4. The cake is a gift from my mum.
  5. The cost of airfares has increased by 15% over the past three years.
  6. I sent my mum a Christmas card from Germany while I was travelling.
  7. The chair is made of plastic.
  8. The lasagna was made by my mum.

I hope this lesson was interesting and that it helped to make these three important prepositions a little easier to understand. Make sure you head over to the mmmEnglish website and check out my courses. They go into much more detail about prepositions and how to use them than anything you’ll find here on YouTube.

And you can check out the rest of the Prepositions course while you’re there and get a special offer for all of my gorgeous mmmEnglish students. The links and details are all in the description below or head over to the mmmEnglish website. I’ll see you there!

Links mentioned in the video

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