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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Prepositions: 16 ways to use ‘by’ in English

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Hi, everyone.

In this lesson we're looking at how to use the preposition "by".

"By" is such a common word; we use it all the time, but because of that, it can be confusing.

"Am I using the right preposition?"

So, in this lesson I'm going to go over lots of examples of when you should use "by",

give you the rules of grammar; and also towards the end of the lesson, teach you new uses

of "by" that you might not know yet because they're advanced.

Okay, let's start with communication.

Here's an example sentence: "You can enter the competition by text message, by post,

by letter, or by email."

These days it's not so common to enter a competition by post, but when I was younger watching children's

television, that was often one of the main ways to enter the competition.

Okay, moving on to transport now.

"P" stands for "preposition".

This shows us that in this example of grammar, "by" is being used as a preposition.

"She's coming to London by car, by plane, by taxi, or by train."

When we're talking about transport, the mode of transport, how we go somewhere - we use

"by" as the preposition.

Three: Error.

"Error" means this is wrong; a mistake.

"I'm sorry.

I did it by mistake.", "I did it by accident.


I did it by accident.

I'm sorry."

These are the only two examples you need to remember for error.

Next one is luck.

"We met each other by chance."

I didn't plan to meet you today.

I'm walking down the street: "Oh, there you are!"

In that situation, I met you by chance.

This means same thing as "by coincidence".

"We met each other by coincidence."

Also similar to the meaning of "fate".

This was meant to be, in a way.

You walk down the... well, not... coincidence... when people talk about coincidence, they mean:

"This is just random it... this happened", whereas if they talk about fate, it's like:

"It was planned to be by the gods" or something like that.

Next use of "by" is for next to.

And when we use "by" in these sentences, we mean: "This thing is positioned next to the

other thing."

Used as a preposition: "The cat is by the window."

Here's the cat-"meow"-here's the window.

The cat is by the window.

Another example: "Your boots are by the stairs."

Here are the stairs going up, here are your boots.

"Your boots are by the stairs."

And lastly, here: "My keys are by the door.

My keys are by the door."

More examples coming up.

Next we have using "by" when we want to say who did something.

These example sentences, here, are all examples of the passive voice.

That's a grammar term.

If after I've explained this, you want to know more, pause the video and go and... go

and check out Adam's lesson on this.

Let's look at these sentences: "'Sunflowers' was painted by Van Gogh".

"Sunflowers" is a painting.

Van Gogh, the artist, painted it.

We can take this sentence, and swap it, and say: "Van Gogh painted 'Sunflowers'."

But in this sentence, which is the passive voice, the thing that comes first in the sentence

is the obje-...

Is the object.

"Sunflowers", the painting comes first, rather than the artist.

And the reason we do passive voice sentences is because this is more formal writing, or

we might see it written in an essay or something like that.

Next example is: "I was invited by Mr. Smith."


I'll change it around: "Mr. Smith invited me" would be the other way to say this.

Next example: "My computer was repaired by the IT Department."

I can change that one around and say: "The IT Department repaired my computer."

So, in all of these sentences, to form the passive voice we use the preposition "by"

in the example sentences.

Next let's look at using "by" as a preposition when we're talking about how to pay for something.

We can say: "by cash, by credit card, by PayPal".

"You can pay for your computer by cash or by credit card in this store."

Next... next we have how something is sold.

Let's look at the examples.

So, did you know that in England: "Eggs are sold by the dozen"?

You get 12.

A "dozen" means 12 eggs.

"By the dozen".

Fabric - material that's in our... makes our clothes and furniture, like sofas: "Fabric

is sold by the metre."

You go in the shop, and the fabric is all on those rolls, and they say: "How many metres

do you want?"

Fabric is sold by the metre.

Another example: "Parking is charged by the hour."

If you want to park here, every hour you must pay two pounds to park your car.

Parking is charged by the hour.

Next example is when we do something alone.

In this example sentence: "I did it by myself".

Just me alone.

I did it by myself.

"Myself" is a reflexive pronoun.

If you want to know more about reflexive pronouns, Rebecca's made a really good video on these.

You can pause, go and watch that video, and come back.

Next example is: "We can't leave her by herself."

Perhaps in this sentence you have a small child, she's only 3 or 4 years old-well, older

than that as well-her parents might say: "No, we can't...

We can't come this evening to the party because we can't leave her by herself; she's too young

to be left without a babysitter."

Number 10: Reactions.

These are also prepositions, here.

When we want to talk about something terrible that's happened that's been in the news, we

might say: "We were...

We were shocked by the...

The terrorist incident that happened.

We were all shocked by it."

We could...


For the similar situation, we could say: "We were saddened by...

We were saddened by what...

We were saddened by the children dying in the terrorist incident.

It made us very sad".

"We were distressed by the images of what happened in the terrorist incident.

The pictures we looked at were...

Were horrible to see.

We were distressed by them".

So, all these ones have a strong emotional reaction; and in these cases, a negative emotional

reaction to something strong that happens.

The next example: "We were alarmed by the loud siren".

"Weeoo, weeoo, weeoo".

When we're alarmed, we're...

We're surprised, it shocks us.

We can also say: "startled by".

"Startled" is, like, a moment when you jump.

Or we could say that: "We were frightened by the loud sound.

What's happening?

Oh no, what's happening?

We have to get out now", that kind of thing.

And the other example here are positive uses for strong feelings that we use with "by",

we could say: "We were...

I was...

I was surprised by everybody...

I was surprised by them coming in with a big birthday cake for me."

Or I could say: "Oh, I was delighted by my sister's news that she's having a baby."

So, in these cases, I'm happy.

Next I've got some advanced uses of "by".

Now let's look at advanced prepositional phrases.

This is advanced vocabulary, so some of these you may not have heard before.

Or because there are a few small words together in some of these, the meanings can be confusing

and not clear to guess.

So let's break them down.

"By far" means...

We use "by far" when we want to compare two different things, and emphasize the difference

between them.

Here's an example sentence: "Jade is by far the best belly dancer."

I can also use "by far" in a negative sense for a negative meaning, so I could say:

"Toby is the slowest reader in the class by far."

And in that sentence, I moved the prepositional phrase "by far" to the end of the sentence.

The next example is: "by no means".

"By no means" means not at all or certainly not.

In this example sentence: "The election outcome is by no means certain" means right now we

don't know who will win.

We have "certain" - "certain" means 100% sure, but when we say: " no means certain",

the meaning changes to the opposite.

Right now we're not certain; we don't know.

Another example is: "The show is by no means over."

So, in that sentence, the meaning of "certainly not" is clearer: "The show is by no means


It's definitely not over; the show will continue.

The next example is: "by and large".

"By and large" means with everything considered.

"Portugal is by and large cheaper than Spain."

I would use that prepositional phrase if I had to consider things in relation to each

other first to make my... to make my decision.

"Portugal is by and large cheaper than Spain."

I thought about it; by and large, now I know Portugal is cheaper than Spain.

Next I have "by virtue of".

"By virtue of" means because of, and this is slightly formal or elevated language.

"He got the job by virtue of his impressive C.V."

So, he had a lot of experience, and we gave him the job because of that.

We could...

We could also say: "He got the job because of his impressive C.V.", but the prepositional

phrase "by virtue of" sounds a bit higher and more elegant English.

Next we have: "by appointment only".

When something happens by appointment only, you have to make a special arrangement.

You can't go there any time, any day and do the thing that you want; you must give them

notice, call them, tell them first.

So, here's an example: "Tours are by appointment only."

One example of this in my local park is they have a very small, tiny, tiny, very, very

small nature garden.

It's probably...


I'm exaggerating.

It's probably about four times as big as this board, and it has a small... small fence there

which you can look over, and it has a sign that says: "You can go in the nature garden

by appointment only."

I don't know who you're supposed to ask or why you would need to go in this tiny garden

so badly, but if you want to, you may go in that tiny garden by appointment only.

But generally, it's special things that you'd really want to do.

And lastly, we have: "by request".

"By request" means there's some...

There's something that you have to ask for in order to get.

So, this could be a food arrangement, this could be if you're staying in a hotel and

they don't have towels for outside by the swimming pool - you'd have to ask by request.

An example sentence is: "A vegetarian option is available by request."

Let's say, there, you're in a restaurant in a buffet situation - all the food's there;

you can come and help yourself.

If you're a vegetarian, something for you to eat might not be there; but this doesn't

mean they don't have it - it just means that you must ask and they'll do something for


It's possible, but it's not there all the time.

How it's slightly different to "by appointment only" is that we say "by appointment only"

when it's something for us to do or something...

A place for us to go; whereas the meaning of "by request" is...

It's more general, and most of the time for things like food, for example, that we just

ask for and then we get.

So, thank you so much for watching.

What you can do now is the quiz on this lesson.


The example...

Oo, my head thing fell off.

I'll carry on.

The example sentence...

I can't carry on.

The Description of Prepositions: 16 ways to use ‘by’ in English