“by” is a very common word in English.
“by” is usually a preposition but it can also be used as an adverb.
In this lesson, you’ll learn 6 common uses of “by” as a preposition.
“by” + place
When “by” is used as a preposition of place before a place, it means “beside” / “at the side of” / “next to”
The house is by a lake. (next to a lake)
I live by the River Thames.
We live by an airport.
“by” + noun
“by” + noun has many different uses and meanings in English.
The general meaning is “a method of something” The precise meaning depends on the category of noun:
to describe a method of travel
Jane is going to France by plane.
I went to London by train.
Let’s go by car.
to describe a method of communication
I will send you the report by fax.
Contact us by phone.
Mark received the order by email.
to describe a method of payment
by credit card
I’d like to pay by credit card.
We paid for the car by cheque.
Exception – We do NOT say “by cash” – We say IN cash.
Example: I paid in cash for the newspaper.
“by” and the passive voice
In the passive voice, “by” indicates WHO is doing the action.
The floor is being cleaned by Jane.
The dress was made by Sarah.
The book was written by my father.
by + reflexive pronoun
by himself / by herself / by itself
This means to do something alone. To do something without the company, help or assistance of others.
I visited London by myself.
You should go by yourself.
Jane is studying by herself.
We went to New York by ourselves.
Jane and Mark often go travelling by themselves.
by + ING form of verb
This describes how to do something. It describes the method for achieving a a particular result.
Mark stays fit by cycling to work.
In the above example, the result is “stays fit”. The method is “by cycling“
The “by” + ING clause can come before or after the result. If the “by” + ING clause is before the result, we write a comma between the clauses.
You can turn on the television by pressing that button. (“by” + ING clause AFTER the result)
By pressing that button, you can turn on the television. (“by” + ING clause BEFORE the result with a comma.)
“by” + time expression
“by” can also act as a preposition of time and we use it with a time expression.
The meaning is: “not later than” or “before or at a particular time”. We use this structure for deadlines.
by next week
by + day of the week
by + month of the year
by + date
by 9 o’clock
by 7 pm
Please send us the contract by Friday.
You must leave the hotel room by 11 am.