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How to use 'by'

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By is a versatile preposition which can be used in a number of situations. Today we take a look at some of its basic uses:

The way something is done

We use by to show how something is done:

We send a postcard or a letter by post.

We contact someone by phone or by email.

We pay for something by credit card or by cash.

Something happens by mistake, by accident or by chance.


We use by to show how someone travels:

They came by car/ by taxi/ by train/ by plane.

Note: do not use ‘the’, ‘my’ or ‘a’ when you use ‘by’. Instead use:
'On the plane.'
'In my car.'
'On a boat.’

We can also use by with –ing to show how something happened:

‘She passed her test by studying hard.’

‘I got into the house by using my key.’

‘By’ in passives

In passive sentences we use by to show who or what did an action:

‘This was painted by Picasso.’

‘This house was built by my grandfather.’

‘I was invited by Sarah.’

‘By’ with adjectives

By can be used after the following adjectives:

‘We were surprised by the news.’

‘I was shocked by his death.’

‘She was astonished by his request’.

Note: ‘at’ can also be used in the above sentences.

‘They were impressed by my exam result.’ (‘with’ can also be used)

‘By’ as ‘next to’

By is also used to mean ‘next to’ or ‘beside’.

‘My dog came and sat by me.’

Use ‘by’ for ‘an amount’

Take a look at this other use of by:

‘He is older than me by 3 years.’

‘We sell tomatoes by the kilo.’

‘By’ as ‘no later than’

In the following situations by means ‘on’ or ‘before’:

‘Give me your homework by Friday.’

‘The boy must be in bed by 9 o’clock.’

‘By’ as ‘alone’

By can be used with:


These all show someone or something being alone:

‘I stayed at home by myself and read the newspaper.’

‘The cat opened the door by himself.’

Now that you are an expert on using ‘by’, try the quiz below! Bye-Bye!

Use the following words to complete the sentences:

train / a snake / mistake / herself / Monday / Beethoven / English ability / cash / seconds / thousands

Mixed Prepositions

  • The explorer was bitten by in the jungle.
  • She fixed her washing machine by .
  • This piece was composed by .
  • He offered to pay for the damage by .
  • The game was watched by of fans.
  • She was quicker than me by 5 .
  • I am impressed by your .
  • Have the report on my desk by .
  • Sorry, I stepped on your foot by .
  • He travelled all the way by .