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When I was studying this, my 先生 kind of brushed over the point, and then years later, I realize that they are different, but I don't know exactly how.

The only thing I understand is that ので is more polite. I suppose that's because ので isn't actually "because" like から, but more a nominalized statement (の) followed by (で), making it more indirect (and we all know that indirect means more polite in Japanese).

Anyone have any more information on the pair?

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I was originally taught that ので was more formal too. My number one rule when learning nuaunces: when someone says that it's "just more formal", don't trust it. –  Ataraxia Sep 16 '12 at 4:07

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

I find the best way to discriminate between these two is the following:

  • ~ので marks an objective cause: 電車が遅れたので、間に合わなかった。 The fact that the train ran late is an objective, verifiable fact. The emphasis of the sentence is not so much on the cause as it is on the effect (or the sentence as a whole).

  • ~から marks a subjective cause: 彼女はこれが好きそうだから、買ってあげよう。 The idea that she'll like this is the speaker's opinion, not an objective fact. The emphasis of the sentence is mostly on the cause.

Often the shift in emphasis is enough to decide which to use. If you want to draw attention to the effect (and give the cause an air of objectivity), use ~ので. On the other hand, if you want to draw attention to the cause, use ~から.

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+1 Great answer. –  phirru Jun 2 '11 at 12:49
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I love this site already. :) –  makdad Jun 2 '11 at 13:06
    
reference??? Not that I don't believe you, but because you can also say 〜のですから, I always figured you could just "break off" whichever half you wanted. Because I frequently use 〜ので、〜から、〜のですから、〜のだから、〜んで、〜んだから pretty interchangeably. –  istrasci Jun 2 '11 at 16:44
    
@istraci: The table on the second page of this PDF notes that ~ので is used for factual actions and situations, and that when it is used to express the speaker's volition, it softens the statement and makes it more polite (less insistent). On the line below, ~から is described as giving the speaker's intent or thought. ~のだから is a slightly different animal, and according to this (PDF), it shows an indirect connection between cause and effect. –  Derek Schaab Jun 2 '11 at 17:56
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@istraci: It's also good to note that ~ので is only a part of the base ~のだ construction, which has a much broader functional scope than ~から. I have put down some thoughts on this here. –  Derek Schaab Jun 2 '11 at 17:59

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