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These three words are equivalent to "from" in English, and can be applied to anything which the one benefited got benefit from.

The difference of 에게서 and 한테서 are quite easy to be grasped:

에게서 used in writings while 한테서 used in conversations.

However, I am not sure how to use (으)로부터 properly and how it is distinguished from 에게서/한테서.

Any help is much appreciated.

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As a native Korean, X(으)로부터 feels like that a certain event or object originates from, arises from, or occurs because of X, whereas X에게서/한테서 feels just like the plain old English word 'from' with slightly limited usages.

E.g.,

  • There are many views that says the recent subprime mortgage crisis occured because of the prevalent moral hazard in the financial industry. (최근의 서브프라임 위기는 금융 산업 전반에 걸친 도덕적 해이로부터 일어났다고 보는 견해가 많다.) (도덕적 해이 - moral hazard; In this case, 에게서/한테서 IS NOT appropriate)
  • This letter is from Stephen Hawking. (이 편지는 스티븐 호킹에게서/한테서 온 것이다.) (스티븐 호킹 - Stephen Hawking......obviously; In this case, 로부터 IS appropriate as well.)

Above was my personal view/interpretation of the words, and the link is the official answer to a similar question from National Institute of Korean Language. (http://krdic.naver.com/rescript_detail.nhn?seq=7486)

It basically says that (으)로부터 can be used with both people/animals and others (plants, other inanimate objects, events/concepts...), while 에게서 is only used with the former.

It also says the more traditional usage is to use 에게서 instead of 로부터, and 로부터 is being used more often nowadays because of the influence of the English word 'from'.

Although I cannot state categorically that 로부터 is more generally/broadly used, I hope this answer helps.

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6

First, I wanted to leave a comment, but I've just joined and it seems that I am not allowed to do so. Second, I'm almost Korean "only" speaker. So please bear with my incorrect English.

Stephen's explanation sound very reasonable. Just wanted to add one additional point.

(으)로부터 can substitute both 에서, and ~에게서. As Stephen stated earlier, 에게서 is used with people/animal. On the other hand, 에서 is used with the rest (plants, other inanimate objects, events/concepts...)

If you find yourself more familiar with 에서 than 으로부터, that might be because it's much more frequently used in spoken sentences. So is 에게서. 에서/에게서 can be used in both spoken and written sentences, while (으)로부터 is more for written sentences.

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    Welcome to Korean Language Stack Exchange. – user7 Jul 20 '16 at 12:15
  • Hi, welcome to Korean stack exchange site. Consider upvoting the question if you think it is meaningful. – 짱멋진만찢남 Jul 20 '16 at 12:25

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