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There is a sign at Harvard (shown below) that says:

Thank you for not smoking within 25 feet from this building

That ‘from’ sounds odd to me. Is ‘within [distance] from [thing]’ used? If so, how—and does it differ from ‘within [distance] of [thing]’?

Sign at Harvard

  • Not even asking about the lack of a period. – Jiminion Aug 30 '16 at 21:14
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    Well, you know those Harvard guys were never very good at English. – Hot Licks Aug 30 '16 at 22:11
  • Maybe the thanks are "from this building". – Sven Yargs Aug 30 '16 at 23:32
  • Maybe Harvard only hires its own graduates as sign painters. – David Handelman Aug 30 '16 at 23:54
  • Technically, if one draws a boundary 25 feet from the building, and one is within that boundary, one is "encouraged" to not smoke. But I can think of a half-dozen better ways to word it. – Hot Licks Aug 31 '16 at 0:14
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I'll use golf as an illustrative example. Standard parlance is as follows:

I hit my ball within 25 feet of the pin. This means that my ball is no more than 25 feet from the pin. No one would say, I hit my ball within 25 feet from the pin. From the pin implies a definite distance, an equality, not an inequality.

My ball is 25 feet from the pin. This means that I've measured (figuratively speaking) the distance between my ball and the pin and found that distance to be 25 feet. No one would say My ball is 25 feet of the pin. Doesn't make sense.

Now let's replace pin by building:

I hit my ball within 25 feet of the building. This means that the shortest distance between my ball and any part of the building is less than 25 feet. No one would say, I hit my ball within 25 feet from the building. From the building implies a definite distance, an equality, not an inequality.

My ball is 25 feet from the building. This means that I've measured (figuratively speaking) the distance between my ball and the closet point of the building and found that distance to be 25 feet. No one would say My ball is 25 feet of the building. Doesn't make sense.

So, when the distance between A and B is X, one would always say A is X feet away from B (or vice versa), not A is X feet away of B (or vice versa).

Similarly, when the distance between A and B is less than X, one would always say A is within X feet of B, not A is within X feet from B.

If you think I'm belaboring the obvious, feel free to assume I went to Harvard ... and majored in English.

  • What did Nietzsche tietzsche? – Jiminion Aug 31 '16 at 13:50
  • This is most likely the best answer. – Jiminion Aug 31 '16 at 14:05
  • @Jiminion Nietzsche tietzsche, "Read slowly." – Richard Kayser Aug 31 '16 at 17:13
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Oh! the versatility of English! One could actually use either of the structures. Personally, I would more often use 'of' eg: Thank you for not smoking 'inside of' 25 feet 'from' this building.

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I would tend to say of rather than from.

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    Welcome to ELU. This site strives to provide objective answers. Take the site tour or have a look at the help center to find out more about good answers. – Helmar Aug 30 '16 at 22:01

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