Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to use with and by

Do you eat your pizza with a fork or do you use your hands?

Today we’re talking about the English prepositions “with” and “by.”

Have you heard somebody use “with” in a sentence?

Surely you have, and have you heard them also use “by” in a sentence as well?

Do you feel confused as to which one is appropriate to use and when in English?

This is a common source of confusion and we’re going to help you to know the difference.

We’re going to show you the difference and when you should use the appropriate version.

Today we have a great question from a listener about the difference between with and by that will really help a lot of listeners!


Dear Lindsay,

I was wondering if you could have a discussion on the difference between “with” and “by”.

For example: ” I eat my lunch with a fork” or “there is some wiggle room with our deadline”  or “there were several simultaneous attacks by the rebels.”

Thanks a million.

– Alireza


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Breaking Each One Down

If you’re not entirely sure which one to use in a sentence, you want to practice with each one.

It helps to break down when each one is appropriate, and we’re going to do that to begin with.

Using WITH: It often combines two thoughts, or shows possession. It can show what you use to get something done as well. 

  • Together–who or what are you doing something with?
    • “I am celebrating New Year’s Eve WITH some of my friends. “
    • “I decorate my house WITH lights for the holiday season.”


Using BY: This helps to give you the final detail in a thought or sentence. It is the way in which something gets done.

  • The METHOD, how something happens,  or the way it gets done
    • “I do most of my cooking for the holidays BY following my grandmother’s recipes (common with -ing).
    • “My best friend is coming in for the holidays BY train.”(common with transportation)
  • You may use this in the passive sense, to show that something happened and how it occurred.
    • “The cake was baked BY Lindsay.”
  • You may use it to indicate distance or proximity.
    • “There is parking by my house.”


Using In Real Life Conversations

As with anything, this takes practice.

Sometimes you can get a feel for this if you listen to somebody speaking and using each of these options.

You may make some mistakes and use the wrong one from time to time, but you just keep at it until you get used to it.

Here are some examples that make it clear so you can see which one you would use and why.

  • “I eat my lunch with a fork.” (WHAT you are using)
  • “There is some wiggle room WITH our deadline.” (together)
  • “There were several simultaneous attacks by the rebels.” (passive)
  • “I ordered a side of pumpkin pie WITH my dinner.” (if I said by it would be next to)
  • “I love the new Christmas song BY Kelly Clarkson.”  (SHE wrote it)



English prepositions can be tricky but it helps to keep the general guidelines in mind.

The word “with” is often together, by is often transportation, method,  or passive.

These rules can really help us to remember when to use which one.

Listen to how these are used–it can be confusing sometimes to be sure so just pay attention.

Remember it’s never about perfection so just continue to practice and you’ll get the hang of it.

Using these in conversation really helps, and you can see how it feels and sounds.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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