Main Difference – By vs With
By is the mainly used preposition in passive constructions. But, you might have noticed that by is sometimes replaced by with, in certain passive voice sentences. This is because both by and with can indicate how something is done. It is also important to know that although both by and with can be used to show how something is done, they also have many other functions. In this article, we are going to look at the difference between by and with in passive construction. The main difference between by and with is that by refers to an agent whereas with refers to a tool.
By – Meaning and Usage
A sentence is considered to be in the passive voice when the action indicated by the verb is performed on the subject; here, the subject is the receiver of the verb. The person or thing that performs the action usually comes at the end of the sentence and is indicated by the preposition by.
He was killed by his wife.
The decision was approved by the committee.
The victim has been abused by the police.
I was bitten by a mad dog.
He is being questioned by the police.
We were startled by the loud noise.
With – Meaning and Usage
As mentioned before, some passive voice constructions carry the preposition with instead of by. For example,
He was killed with a sharp knife.
The tree was cut with an axe.
The vegetables were sliced with her new knife.
In these examples, you’ll note that all the nouns that follow the preposition with are tools. They do not indicate who performed the action, but they indicate what was used to perform the action. So with is always used to indicate the objects that were used to perform an action. This feature is not just limited to passive voice; this can also be noticed in active voice sentences. For example,
The cake was made with flour, sugar, and eggs.
I opened the bottle with a bottle opener.
He was punished for opening the door with his feet.
Difference Between By and With
By indicates who performs the action.
With indicates what was used to perform the action.
By can indicate a person, animal institution, or object.
With can indicate a tool, ingredients or a part of the body.
By is more commonly used in passive construction than with.
With is less commonly used in passive construction than by.