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One of the first things I got to know when I started learning Russian is that the preposition "of" does not exist in Russian. Or at least, so tell beginner-level textbooks.

As I kept studying, I realized that one cannot just use the genitive in many contexts. There are the prepositions с, из, от which denote origin and, unfortunately, are not interchangeable. I'm afraid that I need to learn case-by-case where to employ each one.

So, let me know if I got the right preposition in the following examples.

Из is used when referring:

  • the material something is made of: "стол сделан из дерева".
  • the starting point of a trip, if that same point is denoted by the preposition в, were it the destination : "из Москвы на Кавказ", because "с Кавказа в Москву".
  • Moreover, из is normally used when the point of departure is a city, country, region or other kind of artificial geography: из города, из Саратовской Области, из России.
  • a sample from an assortment: "один из моих любимых блюд".
  • the starting stage of a transition/transformation, if the verb denoting the transition is followed by the preposition в: "Из деревни превратиться в город".

С is used with:

  • the starting point of a trip, if that same point is denoted by the preposition на, were it the destination: "с Кавказа в Москву" because "из Москвы на Кавказ";
  • Moreover, с denotes departure from natural geography, such as mountains, islands, planets and stars. "С Урала на Тихий Океан", "с равнины на гору", "с Земли на Луну".
  • when referring to a starting point in time: "со среды", "с августа", "с 2000 года", "с шести часов вечера".
  • the means of sending a message: "писать с телефона".
  • the starting stage of a transition/transformation denoted by a verb followed by the preposition на: "погода с холодной сменилась на жаркую".

От is used with:

  • the cause of a negative consequence: "умереть от холода".
  • the cause of an inadvertent action: "от смущения она разбила кувшин с молоком".
  • the starting point of a trip having its arrival point denoted by до, when measuring distance or travel time: "поездка от Москвы до Петербурга занимает 13 часов", "расстояние от Москвы до Петербурга - 700км".
  • the symptoms a medicine is supposed to get people rid of: "лекарство от кашеля"

These are the general usages I know so far. There are however specific usages which do not seem to fit the general criteria.

The expressions "с каждого дня", "день ото дня", "изо дня в день" all mean the same, right?

The last surprise I stumbled upon was "Алине Загитовой вручили ключ от квартиры в Ижевске". Is ключ in the same league as лекарство, in the sense that the purpose a thing is made for is indicated by от, rather than the genitive alone or the preposition для? Are there any other words followed by от indicating what something was designed for?

I did not include examples such as "сбить с тольку", "сойти с ума", "изо всех сил", because these all are set expressions which seem independent from general grammar.

Is the expression "от себя" (for "push!") a set expression too, or does it fit any rule for designating the starting point of something?

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    Область, океан are common nouns and are not capitalised, even as parts of a name: Тихий океан, Саратовская область. Jun 19 '18 at 8:08
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Here is one more use case of 'с/со' where it is translated as 'off':

  • Упасть со стола / со скалы / с дивана. - Fall off the table / a cliff / a sofa.
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  • Oh, I'm always learning something new! Once I told someone "он упал от стуля". But, apparently. The correct form would be "он упал со стуля"?
    – swrutra
    Jun 19 '18 at 11:34
  • Yes, "упал от стула" is incorrect, or, depending on how far you want to stretch it, it could mean "fell down because of the chair" (similar to "умер от голода"). No, that still does't sound right. You need to be more specific e.g. "упал от удара стулом". :) Jun 19 '18 at 13:31
  • And yes, "упал со стула" is correct. Jun 19 '18 at 13:34
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A rather funny case is that all three can be used to denote emotional reasons for some action: со зла, из зависти, от скуки.

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The items are correct (except от кашля, since кашель has е only in nominal/accusative singular), but the list is not comprehensive.

In particular, you missed a very common usage of с as "with". Examples:

  • Она пошла в кино с подругами - She went to a cinema with (female) friends.
  • Он в баре с друзьями - he is in a pub with friends
  • Я встретил Мишку с Сашкой - I met Misha and Sasha (implies they were together, and are often appear together)
  • Я сплю только с женой - I sleep only with my wife.
  • Чай с сахаром - tea with sugar
  • Дом с мезонином - house with mezzanine
  • Дама с собачкой - lady with a little dog

Also, the verbs играть, дружить, враждовать, разводиться, воевать, соперничать govern "с":

  • СССР воевал с нацистской Германией - USSR warred/fought/made war against Nazi Germany
  • Я развёлся с женой - I divorced my wife
  • Иванов с Петровым дружат/враждуют (or Иванов дружит/враждует с Петровым)
  • Маша играет в шахматы с Наташей - Masha plays chess against Natasha.

Russian husbands divorce "with" their wives (and vice versa). In Russian, countries make wars "with" each other, rather than against each other, basketball teams play "with" each other, and children fight "with" each other. It seems the Russian language considers war, divorce, fight as something which both parties do together.

What about marriage? It has three different prepositions. Вступают в брак с кем-то, женятся на ком-то, а выходят замуж за кого-то. Maybe the idea is that the husband is "above" his wife (thats why "жениться на"), while the wife is "behind" her husband (thats why "выйти замуж за"), but gender-neutral expression обвенчаться, вступить в брак, связать жизнь govern с.

As for your questions:

"С каждого дня" is uncommon. It is mostly used in expressions like по 2 фотографии с каждого дня - literally "two photographs from each day". Similar expressions:

  • собрать по 1000 рублей с каждого сотрудника - collect 1000 rubles from each employee (for celebrating something, for example)
  • урожай пшеницы составил 50 центнеров с гектара - wheat crop was 50 centners per hectare

"День ото дня" is about a feature which become stronger and stronger day by day (or weaker and weaker day by day). Examples:

  • День ото дня работы становилось всё больше - each day, there was more and more work
  • День ото дня терпение его истощалось - his patience was exhausted day by day
  • Год от года, день ото дня хорошеет Кострома - Year by year, day by day, Kostroma becomes more and more beautiful

"Изо дня в день" is about something which happens every day, without change, i. e. изо дня в день мы слышали одно и то же.

Now about ключ от квартиры. The very common usage of the prefix от is separation of a piece from whole. The verbs оторвать, отделить, отрезать, and similar verbs with prefix от-, usually govern the prefix от: отрубить ветку от дерева, отрезать от буханки, оторвать обложку от книги (but вырвать страницу из книги) etc.

Ключ от квартиры is similar to this: Х от Y means that X and Y are now separate objects, but X is made to be a part of Y, or to belong to Y, or (smaller) X and (bigger) Y are made to be together: лампочка от фонарика, пробка от бутылки, детали от велосипеда, ручка от двери, ключ от замка/двери/квартиры/дома/шкафа/машины, шнурки от ботинок etc. If you will now remove one key from your computer's keyboard, it will become клавиша от компьютера. (Note this is almost always about artificial objects.) Other examples:

- От какой бутылки эта пробка?
- Вон от той.

- Эта крышка от чего?
- От банки с компотом.

- Что это за железяка?
- Ручка от ящика стола.
- А почему она на полу?
- Потому что она от ящика отломалась.

- Это магазин от автомата Калашникова?
- Нет, от "Узи".

- А почему стол шатается?
- Потому что ножка от него отвалилась. А где она, я не знаю.
- В коридоре валяется какая-то ножка, наверное, от нашего стола.  Рядом с чекой от гранаты и гусеницей от танка.
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    Thank you for the detailed explanations. It was great to see more examples of the preposition от referring to the utility of an artificial object. However, you cited many examples of the preposition с followed by the instrumental. For this post I was taking into account the meanings of с followed by genitive.
    – swrutra
    Jun 19 '18 at 11:33
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    I would add that if you have a pan without a lid and need a new one, that would be "крышка для сковородки" as it's not part of the set. Once you have the lid you can say it's now a set and use "от". In broader terms, if a part of set is missing and you need to replace it, you should use "для"
    – Alissa
    Jun 19 '18 at 11:40

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