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December 4, 2011 - Word of the Day: by


"By" is a preposition, but it has other grammatical functions. Look at the picture below:

man in uniform There's a man in uniform standing by the staircase.

Where is he? He's by the staircase. He's near the staircase. You can use the word "by" as a preposition to describe proximity (closeness). Here are some more examples:

  • Jim lives by Sara. (He lives near her.)
  • The grocery store is by the gas station. (It's near the gas station.)
  • If you drive by the store, pick up some milk. (If you are near the store...)

This page has many more examples.

We also use "by" when making a sentence in the passive voice. Here are some examples:

  • The house was built by the homeowner. (Who built the house? The homeowner built it.)
  • Some very good questions are asked by my students. (Who asks the questions? The students ask them.)
  • Some loud noises are being made by the people who live next door. (Who's making the noise? It's the people who live next door.)

"By" is commonly used with reflexive pronouns. When you combine "by" and "myself," "yourself," "himself," etc., it means that something is done alone or without help:

  • She completed the project by herself.
  • He lives by himself.
  • You learned how to fix your car all by yourself.


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