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While solving a question, I came in to a situation where I was left wondering between two of the choices. The sentence was:

Acquisition of certain specific skills can be facilitated by/through general awareness, education to novel situations.

According to my understanding through sounds more apt. But I am not sure. Could anyone explain the correct usage. In which condition one is preferable over the other?

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By suggests a direct result:

The shops were destroyed by flooding.

Through suggests an indirect result:

The shops were repaired through the help of a disaster relief fund.

In some cases we can reasonably consider a result as direct or indirect. In your case we could consider the "general awareness..." as something that directly facilitates the skills you mention, but we could also consider the "general awareness..." as something that is part of a process that in turn facilitates them. As such, but by and through are justifiable, but like you I would favour through.

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@ Jon Hanna: But according to my answer key by is the correct answer. – Sudhir Jan 19 '13 at 16:30
@Sudhir They presumably believe that it is a direct result then. But then, I'd have said "general awareness and education to novel situations" too. – Jon Hanna Jan 19 '13 at 16:33
So here comma makes a huge difference? If yes then how? – Sudhir Jan 19 '13 at 16:40
In serial lists, with two items we have "a and b" and then with more than two we have "a, b, and c" or "a, b and c" (both are allowed). This just has "a, b". Alternatively maybe they meant "general awareness education to novel situations", which is also valid but has a different meaning. – Jon Hanna Jan 19 '13 at 17:10
@Sudhir: I'm afraid you've been misled. The answer book you have, and probably the books you are studying from, are incorrect. The example sentence itself is ungrammatical English with either preposition, because the phrase education to novel situations is just floating at the end, after a comma, without any way to discern its relation to the rest of the sentence. And even if that had been fixed, the sentence is not idiomatic English; nobody ever says 'facilitated' unless they're reading aloud, and then it's not their grammar but the writer's. – John Lawler Jan 19 '13 at 17:11

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