By

'By' is a preposition but it also functions as an adverb. In this lesson, we will discover its uses and rules.

How to Use "By" in the English Grammar

By can be a preposition or an adverb and in this lesson, we have covered its uses with some examples.

1. 'By' as a Preposition

  1. 'By' shows the agent.
  2. 'By' shows the instrument.
  3. 'By' shows the manner.
  4. 'By' shows time adverbs.
  5. 'By' shows the place.
  6. 'By' shows the position.
  7. 'By' shows a value.

Use

1.1 'By' Shows the Agent

By indicates the agent or the doer of an action. The prepositional phrase it makes is only positioned at the end of the sentence.

The car was painted by the mechanic.

passive verb

That's a painting by Picasso.

'By Picasso' is an adverb but cannot be positioned at the beginning of the sentence.

1.2 'By' Shows the Instrument

By indicates the instrument, mainly means of transport. In this case, the prepositional phrase mainly comes at the end.

I travel to Europe by train.

I had a journey by plane.

1.3 'By' Shows the Manner

By can show the method of doing something. Take a look:

  • By is used to show the method of doing something and it has a similar meaning to 'through.' Look:

By mixing almonds with butter, you can make a soft mixture.

In this case only, the prepositional phrase can come at the end of the sentence too.

I will keep in touch with you by letter.

She comes inside by the front door.

- How does she come inside? - by the front door.

Can I pay it by cash or credit card?

  • By comes before emphatic pronouns to show how people do something. It mainly means 'alone':

I will do that by myself.

I will do that alone.

  • By can be followed by a noun to show how something happens. The prepositional phrase, in this case, can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

By chance, I heard your name. = I heard your name by chance.

By accident, I saw you.

By accident = accidentally

  • By is used to add information about where someone comes from, what someone does, what characteristic someone has, etc. The prepositional phrase, in this case, can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

He is kind by nature. = He is, by nature, kind

'By nature' acts like an adverb for 'is.' It means 'naturally.'

He is a doctor by profession. = By profession, he is a doctor.

by profession = professionally

1.4 'By' Shows Time Adverbs

By is used before time adverbs and makes a prepositional phrase that acts as an adverb. In other words, it can head or come at the end of the sentence. Look:

  • By means 'no later than'

I will have lost 2 kilos by this time next year.

Here, 'by' means 'no later than' and the prepositional phrase 'by this time next year' can come at the beginning of the sentence.

  • By means 'during'

We traveled by day.

during

Ants always gather food by summer.

during

1.5 'By' Shows the Place

By is used to show the place of someone in relation to something and it has a similar meaning to 'near or past.' In this case, the prepositional phrase makes an object.

She walked by me.

'By me' means 'past me' and it is the object.

I am standing by you.

'near you'

1.6 'By' Indicates the Position

By can be used to show how we hold something. The prepositional phrase mainly comes at the end. Look:

I caught him by his hands.

I picked it up by its right corner.

- How did you pick it up? - By its right corner.

1.7 'By' Shows the Measurement

By is used before numbers and measurements and it means 'up to.' Here, the prepositional phrase acts as an adverb as well. Look:

I will decrease it by three levels.

Their wages have decreased by 20 percent.

There is an increase by 2 percent.

up to 2 percent

Position in a Sentence

If the prepositional phrase shows the agent, the instrument, the method, the place, the measurement, the position, or comes before emphatic pronouns, it is positioned at the end of a sentence. In other cases, it can be placed at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence. Look:

I am standing by you.

'by' shows the place and the prepositional phrase comes at the end.

Ants always gather food by summer.

'By' shows the time, so 'by summer' can be placed at the beginning of the sentence too.

2. 'By' as an Adverb

Use

By can be an adverb and add more information to the verb. For example:

  • By is used with some verbs to show the distance or time. It has a similar meaning to 'past.'

The time flew by.

I walked by.

  • By also means 'near' and usually comes with the verb be.

The hospital is close by.

  • By can be used in contexts of 'saving' and means 'aside, away.'

Put some money by.

Put it by later.

Position in a Sentence

The adverb by stands after a verb to modify it. Take a look:

The hospital is close by.

I walked by.

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