"With" vs. "By" in the English grammar

With vs. By

'With' and 'by' are prepositions that are used in various cases and have their differences. In this lesson, we will learn their differences and their uses.

"With" vs. "By" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'with' and 'by' is that 'with' shows what or who accompanied someone or something while 'by' refers to an agent.

Demonstrating

'By' and 'with' as prepositions are used to show how something is done. Have a look:

You can open it with a can opener.

You can open it by a can opener.

Action Agent

We can use 'by' to refer to the agent who has done the action. These agents can be people, animals, situations, or objects. For example:

He was attacked by a cat.

Here, the cat is the agent of the action.

The book was written by an unknown author.

Here, the agent is the unknown author.

Action Tools

'With' is used to refer to a tool that is used to fulfill an action. These tools may be ingredients, body parts, or objects. Have a look:

He was fighting with a broken sword.

Here, 'with' is used to show that the action is fulfilled using a tool which is 'a broken sword.'

The victim was murdered with a sharp knife.

Here, the tool is shown with the help of 'with.'

Action Methods

We can use 'by' and 'with' to talk about what means or methods were used to fulfill an action. Take a look at these examples:

I sent the documents by mail.

You can pay by credit card.

Indicating Companionship

'With' is also used to show two or more people or things are together in the same location. Have a look:

I saw him in town with his girlfriend.

I was with my friends when you called.

Passive Voice

While both 'with' and 'by' are both used with the passive voice but 'by' is more common than 'with.' For example:

The cake was made with no eggs.

The meal was prepared by the man in the white suit.

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