How to use by in english grammar

How to use the preposition by in english grammar


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We use the preposition by to talk about a means or method used to do something:

  • I did it by mistake. 
  • Contact me by email. 
  • I want to pay by cheque. 

⚠ It is said to be pay cash or pay in cash (and not by cash)

We also use by to tell by which means of transport someone travels:

  • He always goes to work by bus. 
  • She likes to travel by plane. 

We can also use by bike, by ship, by train, by road, by air, by rail…

⚠ We say on foot and not by foot.

By is used to make sentences on the passive:

  • He was killed by an elephant.
  • They were invited by Paul. 
  • She was bitten by a dog.
  • The car was fixed by the mechanic.
  • This house was built by my father. 

By allows you to talk about an action with a goal (with a verb + ing):

  • You can stay healthy by drinking a lot of water. 
  • By pressing this button, you turn off the computer.

To talk about the author of a work:

  • I’m reading a book by Stephen King. 
  • It’s a film by James Cameron.
  • That’s a nice song by Bruno Mars. 

To describe a person:

  • He’s an engineer by trade.
  • By nature, she’s very nervous.

To express a difference, a deviation:

  • She won by five points.
  • The bullet missed me by inches.

To indicate the times of day:

  • We travelled by night and rested by day.

By is sometimes used to indicate proximity:

  • The bank is by the bakery. 
  • There’s a good restaurant by the lake. 
  • My parents live by the sea.
  • She was standing by me. 

By indicates a time limit:

  • My son must be in bed by 10 o’clock. 
  • I’ll be there by nine. 
  • The letter must be sent by September 15. 

By indicates a conformity with something:

  • He must play by the rules.
  • The elephant is an animal protected by law.
  • By my watch it’s 9 o’clock.
  • By my calculations, it’s too late. 

By is used in calculation, measurement and quantity expressions:

  • Divide/ multiply 10 by 2.
  • My bed is 2 metres by 4.
  • This fabric is sold by the meter. 
  • She’s selling cakes by the thousands.
  • The company decided to cut prices by 50%.

To give his opinion:

  • If that’s okay by you, I’d like to leave now.
  • That’s fine by me.

To say ‘next to another thing’:

  • The two girls were sitting side by side on a bench. 

To say that we did something on our own:

  • The dog opened the door by itself.
  • I stayed at home by myself. 

By the way:

  • By the way, are you coming tonight?

We use by to express the frequency:

  • The babysitter is usually paid by the hour.
  • Climate change is deteriorating by the day. 

To indicate a gradual process:

  • He ate all the cakes one by one. 
  • House prices are climbing day by day.
  • The instruction manual details the process step by step. 

 

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