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What is the basic difference between "made of" and "made from." Both expressions are used in English. For instance, "This chair is made of wood," and "Cream is made from milk." Though the question is quite simple, I often confuse the two expressions. How do we differentiate them and what is the rule or logic behind their use?

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4 Answers 4

I've heard a radio program on this topic.

Made of is used when the material the subject consists of doesn't change during the process of making the subject. As in the example by Armen elsewhere on this page:

Chairs are made of wood.

Here, wood is still wood. It doesn't transform into something else.

On the other hand, made from is used when the material changed its nature. Again, another Armen example:

Paper is made from wood.

Now, wood disappeared — it was transformed into paper.

Some more examples:

  • The house is made of bricks. [They are still bricks.]
  • Wine is made from grapes. [Grapes turn into wine.]
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The Process is implied by having 'come from' somewhere. –  Pureferret Apr 27 '12 at 15:40
    
Just to throw a mild spanner/curiosity into the mix - what about if a chair was made from bits of wood, or when a sculpture is being made from nuts and bolts? The specific things aren't being transformed in the processes, except in a weird meta-type sense, but in both cases 'from' sounds better to my ears. Basically, I think the transformation thing is right, but I'm not sure if it's purely restricted to talking about the component bits.. –  tanantish Apr 27 '12 at 19:36
    
Quoted phrase Google: "made from nuts and bolts": 16,600 hits. "made of nuts and bolts": 101,000. For "made from lego" versus of, the results are closer, like 560,000 vs 880,000. Although from is outnumbered, there seems to be enough of a case for validity. –  Kaz Apr 27 '12 at 21:29
    
if a chair is 'made from' bits of wood they are no longer 'bits' of wood, they are a chair; both the bits and the chair are 'made of' wood, however. :) –  Michael Edenfield Apr 28 '12 at 1:16
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@MichaelEdenfield: If you take the chair apart, you are left with bits of wood. But you cannot reconstitute wood from paper, or milk from butter. It's also worth noting that cream comes "from" milk in that it doesn't use all of the milk. Same with wine "from" grapes - you don't end up with seeds and skin in your drink. –  naught101 Apr 28 '12 at 11:04

‘Made from’ is often used to describe manufacturing processes . . . ‘Made of’ emphasises the inherent material or qualities of something, and has a meaning similar to ‘composed of’.

‘Cambridge Grammar of English’ by Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy

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Example: chairs are made of wood. But: paper is made from wood. –  Armen Ծիրունյան Apr 27 '12 at 9:04

In the context you are speaking of, the meanings are identical. Its more of an idiosyncrasy. My grandmother would say "its made of wood" and I would say "its made from wood". I would prefer to use the more common expression. It would seem more foreign to say the former.

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Made from wood is strange if the object is actually a chunk of wood and not the result of transforming wood into something else. Did your grandmother emigrate to a non-English-speaking country, where her descendants consequently grew up? ;) –  Kaz Apr 27 '12 at 17:00
    
@Kaz this is all very non-scientific. Debating this stuff is like debating your preference of color. not really compelling. –  Jason Sebring Apr 27 '12 at 17:54
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How linguistics is made scientific is by adhering to empirical data. You take a sentence and you try it on a sample of native speakers, asking them whether they consider it grammatical. Based on our informal sample here consisting of votes and discussion, your viewpoint that wooden object is made from wood is being outnumbered N to 1 for an increasing N. –  Kaz Apr 27 '12 at 19:50
    
Using google adwords tools is a good idea for sure. Good try with the big o notation but i got your point. –  Jason Sebring Apr 28 '12 at 0:28
    
Sorry, I should have said that you could well be right, but the maint point is that it's not just wishy washy; it's possible to know some things things about language with certainty. –  Kaz Apr 28 '12 at 1:22

The best answer is that if you can't reverse the thing that is made, you have to use made from, but if you can reverse it, it's better to use made of.

For example, "the table is made of wood" as the wood is still seen at its nature, but "the cheese is made from milk" because cheese is solid and milk is liquid and you can't reverse it.

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The top-voted answer said exactly this ten months ago. –  Andrew Leach Feb 28 '13 at 18:25

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 28 '13 at 20:17

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