The English preposition BY (5 uses,15 real examples)

We often use the preposition by to show how we do something.

How we travel

My family went to Osaka by bullet train.

My family went to Osaka by bullet train.

Harrison goes to work by bicycle if the weather is nice.

*Note – When we walk we don’t say by walk, we say on foot.

I went to the mall on foot yesterday, it took 45 minutes.

How something is made

All the desserts in the restaurant are made by hand.

These shirts are made by machines so I worry about the quality.  

How we pay for something

Would you like to pay by credit card?

*We pay IN cash (not by cash)

A: Can you pay by credit card?

B: I’ll pay in cash. It’s easier.

A: Would you like to pay by credit card?
B: No, I’ll pay in cash.

BY mistake – BY accident –BY chance

If we do something ON purpose it means that we meant to do it. We wanted to do it. We use the preposition BY with the words mistake, accident, and chance if we didn’t do something on purpose.

I grabbed my wife’s keys by mistake this morning.

*I didn’t mean to take her keys. It was a mistake.

Terry entered my email address on this message by accident. I wasn’t supposed to see it.

*Terry didn’t want to send me a copy of the email. It was an accident.

Terry entered my email address on this message by accident. I wasn't supposed to see it.

Walter and I met by chance at the coffee shop after work. It was great timing, I haven’t seen him for a long time. We could catch up.

*I didn’t plan to meet Walter.

With the passive Voice

By with the passive voice – Something is done by a person or another thing.

I’m so itchy. I was bitten by a mosquito last night. (was bitten is the passive voice)

The academy awards are watched by people all over the world. (are watched is the passive voice)

You can check out my awesome blog post on the passive voice here: Passive Voice

We also use BY to mean close to or next to.

Marcel get in the picture, stand over there by Henry. (stand next to Henry)

A: Has anyone seen my coffee mug?

B: It’s by the microwave in the break room.

A: Have you seen my coffee mug?
B: I saw it this morning by the microwave in the break room.

Learn more uses for the preposition BY at https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/by_1?q=by

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The preposition BY – 5 different uses, 15 natural examples

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The preposition BY - Different uses, 15 natural examples

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