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“gift of” vs. “gift from”

What is a correct... “A gift of John Doe” or “A gift from John Doe” when referring to a large charitable donation? I like the sound of “of” but not sure which one is right.

  • February 22, 2013
  • Posted by Cathie
  • Filed in Style

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"Gift from ~" refers to who gave the gift. So, "A gift from John" means that John gave the gift.

"Gift of ~" refers to that which was given. "A gift of John" means that John was given as a gift. Between three consenting adults, there may not be anything wrong with that, but in most cases it would get you a raised eyebrow.

You often see this construction around holidays in advertisements. "Give the gift of warmth," for example, might be used to sell sweaters. Or charitable donations - "She gave a gift of $50 to her church."

mshades February 22, 2013 @ 2:36PM

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Oh, I'm going to get smacked for using "between three," aren't I? I blame a coffee shortage. Should be "among," of course.

mshades February 22, 2013 @ 2:38PM

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@mshades - On the contrary, you were quite right to use "between". It's nonsense that "between" can only be used for two, and anyone who gives you a smacking for it has only learnt half a rule. When we see things as a group, yes we use "among", but when we see them as individuals, we tend to use "between". This is from the OED:

"It [between] is still the only word available to express the relation of a thing to many surrounding things severally and individually, among expressing a relation to them collectively and vaguely"

"The Republic of Poland, a country in Central Europe, lies between Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Russia to the north." - UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies

Warsaw Will February 23, 2013 @ 3:30AM

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In answer to the question, I agree with mshades, and this dictionary entry supports that:

But there seems to be one exception - when God or gods are involved. A random fifty examples at the British National Corpus almost exclusively used "from", except for this one:

"Where Wesley stressed faith as a gift of God, Locke stressed reason as a gift of God"

According to this Google Ngram graph, "gift of God" has historically been more common than "gift from God", although it suggests that things are changing:

"gift of the gods" vs "gift from the gods" shows a similar story, but here the "from" version has now overtaken the "of" version:

Incidentally, it looks as though the preference for "from" rather than "of" is fairly recent, on both sides of the Atlantic:

Warsaw Will February 23, 2013 @ 3:59AM

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Between you, me, and the gatepost, I agree with mshades and WW.

Hairy Scot February 27, 2013 @ 3:03PM

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gift from

yobro May 5, 2013 @ 9:58PM

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I think they mean the same thing, except the meaning "gift from" is much more clearer. "Gift of" could be either, the giver who gives or the gift belongs to someone.

jamieliu August 18, 2013 @ 2:10PM

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