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Difference Between ‘By’ And ‘With’

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How often can we find ourselves confused about which word to use and where? The English language can be a little tricky and confusing but once you understand how to use a particular word and when by practicing, you will have mastered the language with no doubts left behind. 

One of the most confusing dilemmas in our day-to-day conversations is the usage of the words ‘by’ and ‘with’. They seem so similar yet so different. In this article, we will highlight the differences and the similarities between the two and we will also explain in detail how to use them. 

So, what is the difference between ‘by’ and ‘with’? ‘By’ is usually used in a sentence when we want to talk about somebody who did an action. When we use ‘with’, the sentence indicates what was used to complete the action. 

Read on to find out the detailed differences between the two. 

What Is ‘By’?

‘By’ is used in a sentence when we want to talk about someone or something that does something

  • ‘The project was completed by her’
  • ‘The entire packing process is completed by this machine’
  • ‘The task was assigned to him’

‘By’ is also used when we want to explain how something is done or when something is done 

  • ‘We should travel to the city by car’
  • ‘He learned music by himself’
  • ‘We will complete the article by afternoon’

‘By’ is also used to indicate when someone stays by someone’s or something’s side and stands near them.

  • ‘She stood by him the entire ceremony’
  • ‘She walked by her friends without looking at them’

What Is ‘With’?

‘With’ is used when you want to talk about someone or something together or someone doing something with somebody else.

  • ‘She is having a date with Robbie’
  • ‘He lives with his daughter’
  • ‘My cellphone is with Ana’

‘With’ is also used to indicate when someone is doing an activity using something or when an action should be carried in a particular way.

  • ‘She wiped the juice off her dress with some tissues’
  • ‘Please handle the package with care’
  • ‘Please complete this task with extra care’

‘With’ is also used to describe someone of certain characteristics

  • ‘She is tall with dark hair’
  • ‘She speaks with a unique accent’

‘With’ is also used to describe an action that comes in response to a feeling.

  • ‘She was trembling with fear’
  • ‘She couldn’t sleep with all the excitement’

Differences Between By And With

At first, it does look quite confusing to use these words and when to use them. However, these words have their differences.

When Something Is Near Something Else

‘By’ is used to indicate when someone or something was near someone or something. It is also used when we want to talk about somebody who was with someone else through a particular situation.

  • ‘He was by her side during her father’s death’
  • ‘The book was always kept by her bedside’

‘With’ is used when we want to talk about someone or something was near and along with someone or something, doing an activity together.

  • ‘She was playing monopoly with her cousin’
  • ‘Sona was with her mother at the function’

To Indicate Something

‘By’ is used to indicate when an action is done by someone.

  • ‘The project was completed by them’
  • ‘The article was edited by her’

‘With’ is used to indicate when an action is done by something, meaning it is used to indicate a tool or a body part.

  • ‘The dough should be rolled with bare hands’
  • ‘The food was made with the help of many cooks’

Comparison Chart: By Vs With

Near someone or somethingWhen we say someone was by someone’s side, we mean that the person was next to the other person’s side all the time. It is also used to indicate how one person supported the other.This is usually used to show when someone is with someone for an activity or for doing something together.
Indicating an action‘By’ is used when a particular action is completed by a person or a living thing, usually.‘With’ is used when a particular action is completed with the help of a tool or a body part. 
VoiceUsually used in passive voice sentence constructionUsually used in active voice sentence construction. 

Similitudes Between By And With

Both ‘by’ and ‘with’ are used to answer the question of how an action was completed and busing what tool

  • ‘The questions were answered by Jessica’
  • ‘The plate was washed with a dishwasher’
  • ‘The photo was edited with a photoshop application’
  • ‘The task was completed by her’

Both the sentences answer how a particular task was completed and by which person or by using what tool.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Meaning Of ‘by hand’?

When a person uses the phrase ‘by hand’ they are usually indicating that the particular task was done by human hands and not with the help of technology or machines. That is, the particular task was done manually. 

It also means that a particular thing was sent to someone personally rather than sending it via a third person or system.

‘The dough was rolled by hand’
‘The jewelry is created by hand’
‘He sent him the papers by hand’

The phrase ‘by hand’ is therefore used to indicate when someone does something with their own hands rather than using machines. It is also used to indicate when something was sent to someone personally rather than through a system. 


The usage of ‘by’ and ‘with’ can be confusing for English speakers but the next time you wonder what word to choose, remember that ‘by’ is used to explain someone’s action and ‘with’ is used to describe what the action was completed with

With a little practice and exposure, you can easily master the English language and speak it without any dilemmas!


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
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