2

I am slightly confused about, when I can say:

I am from a particular place, or I belong to a particular place, state or nation.

For example, If :

  1. I was born in New York?
  2. I grew up in New York?
  3. I grew up somewhere else and then came to live in New York?
  • 1
    It's most definitely ambiguous, and it's a problem for a lot of people who grew up in cultures different from their passport nationality. It really depends on context, to be honest. – Maroon May 16 '15 at 18:41
  • 3
    If you've ever been in New York you can say you're "from" New York. (In fact, no one will keep you from saying that even if you've never traveled outside of Mumbai.) It's a question of how much it means, and you have to judge that to a large degree. If, eg, you've had a residence in NYC for several years and you're briefly traveling in Europe, it would not be unreasonable to say you're "from New York". But it would probably be more reasonable to say you're "most recently from New York", implying that you've lived elsewhere but now consider that your home. – Hot Licks May 16 '15 at 19:32
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    For one person, simply having a mailbox renders you "from" there, others reserve it for those born and bred, still others are suspect if your roots don't go down three generations. But it can also be relative both to time and distance. If I'm at a business conference, I'm "from" DC as that is where my job and career currently are, but if asked about where I'm "from" personally, I might say Los Angeles. And then someone from the City of Los Angeles will object: You're not from LA, you're from Orange County. – choster May 16 '15 at 20:28
5

The preposition from does a lot of work in the English language, and so its usage usually leaves plenty of wiggle room for interpretation:

preposition

1.0 Indicating the point in space at which a journey, motion, or action starts:
she began to walk away from him
I leapt from my bed
figurative he was turning the Chamberlain government away from appeasement

1.1 Indicating the distance between a particular place and another place used as a point of reference:
the ambush occurred 50 metres from a checkpoint

2.0 Indicating the point in time at which a particular process, event, or activity starts:
the show will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

3.0 Indicating the source or provenance of someone or something:
I’m from Hackney
she rang him from the hotel
she demanded the keys from her husband

3.1 Indicating the date at which something was created:
a document dating from the thirteenth century

4.0 Indicating the starting point of a specified range on a scale:
men who ranged in age from seventeen to eighty-four

4.1 Indicating one extreme in a range of conceptual variations:
anything from geography to literature

5.0 Indicating the point at which an observer is placed:
you can see the island from here
figurative the ability to see things from another’s point of view

6.0 Indicating the raw material out of which something is manufactured:
a paint made from a natural resin

7.0 Indicating separation or removal:
the party was ousted from power after sixteen years

8.0 Indicating prevention:
the story of how he was saved from death

9.0 Indicating a cause:
a child suffering from asthma

10.0 Indicating a source of knowledge or the basis for one’s judgement:
information obtained from papers, books, and presentations

11.0 Indicating a distinction:
these fees are quite distinct from expenses

ODO

Consider my personal ambiguity:

  • I am from Sharon Hill, because it is the town of my childhood.
  • I am from Philadelphia, because it is the city our suburb identified with.
  • I am from Pennsylvania, because it is the state I lived in most of my life.
  • I am from the United States, because it is the nation of my passport.
  • I am from Wyalusing, because it is my high school alma mater.
  • I am from Drexel University, because I studied there.
  • I am from Elim, because I graduated from there.
  • I am from Trinity, because I study there now.
  • I am from New Albany, because it the address where I live.
  • I am from Hugo's Corners, because it is the closest point marked on the map.
  • I am from the Cahill Mountain, because it is the region local people recognize.
  • I am from Estella, because I work there.
  • I am from Forksville, because it is the address where I work.
  • I am from Williamsport, because it is the closest city people from afar recognize.
  • I am from Kenya, because I lived there for many years and married there.
  • I am from Nyakatch, because it's where I usually stay in Kenya.
  • I am from Kisii, because I lived there for many years & still have close friends their.
  • I am from London, because I just arrived home from traveling there.

So, where am I from? It depends who I am talking to, and what we are talking about.

Conclusion:

If you feel like you are from New York (or Mumbai), feel free to say you are from New York (or Mumbai), but be ready to explain exactly what you mean by from.

  • 2
    Most of the examples you give don't fly, in my opinion. You don't use this expression for where you went to school or where you once lived, unless it was your place of birth or childhood hometown. Certainly not for where you've just been traveling through. – Steven Littman May 17 '15 at 3:42
  • I'd gladly grant that you don't use the word from all of these ways, @Steven, but language is not a private affair, and many of us do use the word from these ways, as the dictionary affirms. So, where am I from? Ultimately, it depends who I am talking to, and what we are talking about. To show my reasonable nature, I've voted your answer up, because it is a legitimate way to see and talk about "Where are you from?". – ScotM May 17 '15 at 12:51
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The situation dictates the usage. The question "Where are you from?" in the early stages of getting to know someone usually refers to where they were born and/or raised, or where they consider their hometown. However, when traveling, the same question might simply mean, "Where do you live right now?" Either way, your answer will relate a place you have a deep connection to, not somewhere you lived briefly once or just passed through.

Incidentally, if you just want to know someone's place of birth, you could ask "Where are you from originally?"

3

From is typically reserved for where you grew up. For instance, I was born in New York, but my parents moved to Columbus when I was an infant, and I grew up there, so I'm "from" Columbus. It has connotations of the place that formed you, and I'd personally consider it wrong if used otherwise. It's possible for someone to have moved so often during childhood that he or she isn't really "from" anywhere in particular.

People generally tailor the answer, however, to the audience. For instance, it's common for people who grew up in a suburb of a large city to identify themselves as "from" the suburb when in that city, but as "from" that city when elsewhere. If you grew up in Mumbai, but now live in New York, you would probably identify yourself as "from" India, unless you were talking to a fellow expatriate or someone you otherwise knew to be familiar with India.

2

Funny he should mention Mumbai. Saying one is from Mumbai contains (can contain) a political element. As pointed out by the Tata programmers at Target, the "common" man in India still insists on Bombay. Just an interesting aside. Asides allowed?

  • 1
    Yes, asides are allowed, but as comments, not answers. The fact of the matter is, however, since you don't have 50 rep, the system isn't going to let you comment. – Dan Bron May 16 '15 at 22:08

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