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The Difference Between AT and BY in Easy Way

The Difference Between "at" and "by"

These little words are so important! But it can be confusing sometimes too, right? So this post will help you.


Difference between "by" and "at"


Although both words can be used interchangeably in many situations, the basic differences between them are as follows:


1. How to use "at"?

A. Expressing location or arrival in a particular place or position.

  • They live at Conway House.

B. Expressing the time when an event takes place.

  • The children go to bed at nine o'clock.

C. Denoting a particular point or segment on a scale.

  • Prices start at $18,500.

D. Expressing a particular state or condition.

  • Placed them at a serious disadvantage.

E. Expressing the object of a look, gesture, thought, action, or plan.

  • I looked at my watch.

F. Expressing the means by which something is done.

  • Holding a corrections officer at knifepoint.

2. How to use "by"?

A. Indicating the means of achieving something.

  • Malaria can be controlled by attacking the parasite.

B. Indicating the amount or size of a margin.

  • The shot missed her by miles.

C. Indicating a deadline or the end of a particular time period.

  • I've got to do this report by Monday.

D. Indicating location of a physical object beside a place or object.

  • Remains were discovered by the roadside.

E. Indicating the period in which something happens.

  • This animal always hunts by night.

F. Concerning; according to.

  • Anything you do is all right by me.

G. Used in mild oaths.

  • It was the least he could do, by God.


See: Difference between "doesn't" and "don't"


Use "at" and "by" correctly


Their use is one of the biggest problems for English language students, because it causes a lot of grammatical errors! 

Here are some examples of that errors:

  • We live in a village by Chicago.
  • We live in a village near Chicago.
  • Khalifa stayed by me last weekend.
  • Khalifa stayed at my place last weekend.
  • I stayed by my grandmother during the Easter holidays.
  • I stayed at my grandmother's (house) during the Easter holidays.
  • Lila lives by her mother.
  • Lila lives with her mother. 
  • He doesn't like driving by night.
  • He doesn't like driving at night. 
  • The show should be finished at 9pm.
  • The show should be finished by 9pm.
  • I'm going shopping by lunchtime.
  • I'm going shopping at lunchtime.
  • I read my daughter a story by bedtime.
  • I read my daughter a story at bedtime.
  • Please return these books at Friday.
  • Please return these books by Friday. 


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