Common Prepositional Phrases with “BY” in English

Useful preposition collocations with the preposition BY...


  • By a whisker

Meaning: By a very small distance

E.g. I’m lucky to be alive. The bus missed me by a whisker.

  • By accident

Meaning: Accidentally; unintentionally

E.g. Sorry, I knocked over the vase by accident.

  • By accident

Meaning: As the result of some undesigned, unintended, unrelated, natural, or random occurrence

E.g. The car got totaled by accident; a giant snowdrift fell off the church roof.

  • By accident

Meaning: By chance; unexpectedly; as the result of an unrelated series of events

E.g. She overheard the information by accident.

  • By and large

Meaning: Mostly, generally; with few exceptions

E.g. It was, by and large, an unexceptional presentation.

  • By any chance

Meaning: Possibly; perhaps

E.g. Are you by any chance looking for a new staff member?

  • By default

Meaning: In absence of any opposing action

E.g. If we don’t do something, they’ll win by default.

  • By definition

Meaning: According to, or as a matter of, definition

E.g. This property holds for all polygons; and since, by definition, all triangles are polygons, it holds for all triangles.

  • By definition

Meaning: Necessarily; always; certainly

E.g. Almost by definition, a conversation requires both parties to accept each other's viewpoints to some extent.

  • By far

Meaning: To a considerably large extent, easily

E.g. Paris is by far the largest city in France.

  • By hand

Meaning: Manually; without the use of automation or machines

E.g. The computers went down and they had to do all the bookkeeping by hand that day.

  • By heart

Meaning: Knowing completely; as having committed completely to memory

E.g. He used to live in that town, and he still knows all the streets by heart.

  • By mistake

Meaning: By accident; without intention to do so

E.g. Today I took your packed lunch to work by mistake.

  • By no means

Meaning: Certainly not; definitely not

E.g. By no means am I suggesting that euthanasia should be outlawed, but rather that we should look at its inherent risks.

  • By now

Meaning: At some time in the near past

E.g. My parents should have arrived by now. I wonder what's keeping them.

  • By oneself

Meaning: Alone; without assistance or help from others

E.g. You ate the whole thing by yourself?

  • By oneself

Meaning: Alone, without another's company

E.g. He sat by himself in the corner, waiting quietly.

  • By rail

Meaning: Via a train

E.g. Cotton was increasingly shipped by rail.

  • By sail

Meaning: Via a sailboat or sailing ship

E.g. It took many weeks to cross the Atlantic by sail.

  • By steam

Meaning: Via a steam-powered boat or ship

E.g. The Nineteenth Century innovated navigation by steam.

  • By steam

Meaning: Via a steam train

E.g. This line once took passengers by steam to the frontier.

  • By the way

Meaning: Incidentally

E.g. His mother will be coming for dinner tomorrow, and, by the way, she volunteered to bring dessert.

  • By trade

Meaning: As a profession; professionally

E.g. Although he was a gifted musician, he was a plumber by trade and never played music professionally.

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Common Prepositional Phrases with “BY” in English

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