When is it correct to use від in a sentence to mean “from” as opposed to using з? Are they interchangeable?
The simplest questions are hardest to answer. :) Well, the short answer is,
- unlike English, the Ukrainian conjunctions are more specific and require some exercise to master completely;
- these two are somewhat interchangeable in certain contexts;
- there is no unanimity even among the researchers of Ukrainian language;
- one version suggests that з is used to refer movement from within the borders of something, while від only refers the general initial point of departure;
Your question is about the antonym to conjunctions discussed here:
Як правильніше вживати, "в" чи "до"?
This one refers to M.Vakulenko's work, "The Ukrainian terminology: a combined analysis" («Українська термінологія: комплексний лінгвістичний аналіз») where he argues that
the conjunction до ("toward") is an antonym for від ("from"),
while в (у) ("into, to") is an antonym to з ("from within"):
The conjunction «до» means approach toward something or someone: підійти до стола ("walk to the table"), приїхати в гості до друга ("come to a friend"), наближатися до міста ("approach a town").
The antonym for this conjunction is від: відійти від стола ("walk from the table"), їхати від друга ("go from a friend"), віддалятися від міста ("to move away from a town"), від Києва до Лубен ("from Kyiv to Lubny").
If, however, the movement occurs into the margins of an object, and the main connotation is focused precisely on the final destination of the movement, then в is used (and its antonym з): увійти в кімнату / вийти з кімнати ("enter the room / leave the room, literally go out of the room"), покласти в шухляду / вийняти з шухляди ("put in a drawer / take out of the drawer"), приїхати в Україну / поїxати з України ("come to Ukraine / leave Ukraine, lit. go out Ukraine").
First that I should say is that the preposition "з" (also spelled as "із" and "зі" for euphony) in addition to the meaning "from" has other meanings; for example, when joined with instrumental case objects (instead of genitive case), it means "with", not "from". Similarly "від" sometimes can have other meaning, e.g. specifying a reason (like "due to"). I suppose you know that (or don't ask about that) and will try to concentrate only on their "from"-related meanings.
Basic difference between "від" and "з" ("із", "зі") for spatial relations is that "від" concentrates purely on the movement of the subject in a way that it's distance to the object is generally increasing, while "з" assumes that the subject was inside the object:
- either that Kyiv is/was somebody's original place of living/production;
- or that Kyiv was a place of departure.
In any case the subject was in Kyiv.
…from the river
This assumes that the something is moving in a from-the-river direction (not necessary it was inside). «Вона йшла від річки» means that she walk in a from-the-river direction, but «вона вийшла з річки» would mean that she was bathing.
Additionally, each of the prepositions has its own set of the verb prefixes (verb variants) that fit it better:
Ми виїхали з міста.
We drove out of the city.
Ми від'їхали від міста.
We drove (to some distance) away from the city.
Time relations and other dimensions
Both "з" and "від" can be used to specify starting time of something. There are some differences in connotation: "від … (до …)" is preferred to be used for continuous actions ("something lasted from … to …"), while "з … до …" doesn't have such limitations ("several unrelated actions occurred between … and …"); and only "від" can be used with meaning "issued at" for a document ("документ від 31.01.1999" — "document issued at 1999-01-31"). But I don't focus on such subtle differences.
More important thing is what happens to "від" and "з" applied to spatial landmarks when both the spatial location and the time change (e.g. during the trip). "Від" can easily turn spatial reference points into time reference points, while "з" can't:
Я безперервно читав (увесь час) від Києва до Лондона.
I have been continuously reading (for the whole time) since (department from) Kyiv until (arrival to) London.
Я безперевно читав з Києва до Лондона.
That looks like some malformed phrase. You can "їхати" ("drive"), "летіти" ("fly"), "плисти" ("swim") "з Києва до Лондона" ("from Kyiv to London"), but not "read", "sleep" or "eat".
Another thing: when specifying values for physical quantities:
only "від … (до …)" can be used to specify range bounds:
температура від 7 °C до 25 °C
температура з 7 °C до 25 °C
temperature between 7 °C and 25 °C
however both "з … (до …)" and "від … (до …)" can be used to specify the change:
температура росла від 7 °C до 25 °C
температура виросла з 7 °C до 25 °C
temperature was growing/has grown from 7 °C to 25 °C
(Again, as with spatial location, "з" assumes that the subject was there, while for "від" it's unnecessary; that's why you can used both "від" and "з" to specify an interval of change, but only "від" to specify an interval whose starting point was probably never reached.)
- Material can be specified only using "з", not using "від": "…з дерева" ("…made of wood").
Let me show different between від and з for almost every context.
The preposition від
Only with the Genitive case:
- A start place of movement: від Києва • from Kyiv, від позначки • from the mark, від мене • from me;
- The time from which action begins: від світанку • from dawn, від того дня • from that day;
- A reason: від чаду • from fumes, від перевтоми • from overwork, від страху • from fear;
- An appointment of the subject: (ключ) від кабінету • (key) from the cabinet, (засіб) від простуди • (remedy) from the cold;
- A separation, protection from someone or something: від цілого • from the whole, від хлібини • from the bread, від сонця • from the sun, від дощу • from the rain.
The preposition з
With the Genitive case:
- A movement from the inside, from a certain environment, from the surface: зі школи • from school, з поля • from the field, з хмари • from the cloud, з роботи • from work;
- A reason, basis of action: з жарту • from a joke, з нудьги • from boredom, з холоду • from cold, з дозволу • with permission;
- A material, implements: з дерева • (by) from a tree, з чашки • from a cup, з лука • with an onion;
- A sign for the branch: (підручник) з географії • (textbook) in geography, (фахівець) з медицини • (specialist) in medicine;
- The object of negative attitude: (глузувати, насміхатися, знущатися, кепкувати, глумитися) з когось • (ridicule, laugh, mock, cheat, mock) from someone.
In conjunction with the Accusative case of the noun, the preposition means “with an approximation, comparison”: з десяток • about ten, з годину • about an hour, з діжку • about a barrel, з кулак • like a fist.
In conjunction with the Instrumental case of the noun, the preposition “with” indicates the interconnection of objects, the accompanying circumstances: з братом • with a brother, з людьми • with people, з шумом • with noise, з плугами • with plows, з проханням • with a request.